The Spectacle Blog

Reporters Without Borders Follow-Up

By on 2.12.14 | 9:39PM

I must admit, I’m a little confused by Kyle’s post regarding the freedom of our press.

I agree that Reporters Without Borders’ data may be faulty. Their epistemology lacks rigor. 

However, I’ll echo the survey’s statement that “amid an all-out hunt for leaks and sources, 2013 will also be the year of the Associated Press scandal, which came to light when the Department of Justice acknowledged that it had seized the news agency’s phone records.” 

(That’s not to mention the Justice Department’s decision to label James Rosen a “criminal co-conspirator,” while tracking his visits to the State Department, through email and phone traces.)

If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that we can’t trust our government to defend our freedom. That certainly goes for the press, as well. In fact, we count on the Fourth Estate to remain most vigilant.

With a tip of my tin-foil hat to Kyle, I’d state for the record that my government is the greatest threat to my life, liberty, and property. Here in the nation’s capital, I’m far less afraid of distant jihadis than I am the grey-suited Soviets who audit my taxes, listen to my phone calls, and read my emails. These are the guys who wield the Executive-endorsed authority to detain me indefinitely.

Objection to this fundamental overreach isn’t a partisan issue. It’s about fundamental rights and liberties, and a federal government that tramples them. Is the freedom of our press similarly imperiled? Of course it is. Sure, I’m grateful I don’t live in Belarus, but that doesn’t take the teeth out of the most shadowy, sinister threats that live right here in the District.

As the report notes, if the government isn’t targeting journalists, it’s sure aiming at their sources:

Rather than pursuing journalists, the emphasis has been on going after their sources, but often using the journalist to identify them. No fewer that eight individuals have been charged under the Espionage Act since Obama became president, compared with three during Bush’s two terms. While 2012 was in part the year of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 2013 will be remember for the National Security Agency computer specialist Edward Snowden, who exposed the mass surveillance methods developed by the US intelligence agencies.

These concerns are reasonable. America is conspicuously less free than it used to be. That goes for our press, irrespective of the ridiculous rankings. It’s part of a larger pattern. 

I'm glad writers with an audience are alarmed.

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