Modern times are discouraging to those of us who believe that freely available information is the only way to run a democracy. Here’s the latest blow, as reported by Mother Jones:
On Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that states have no constitutional obligation to honor public records requests from non-residents. Journalists, who frequently rely on freedom of information laws to expose corruption and break open stories, fear that the decision may make it harder for them to access public records.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) and 53 other media organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing:
By largely limiting public record access in Virginia to commonwealth citizens, [the law] inhibits the media from acquiring newsworthy records and stymies efforts to provide state-by-state comparisons on important topics such as public education, healthcare, and law enforcement activities,” the media organizations argued in their brief.
MuckRock, a website that files public records requests on behalf of activists, journalists is proposing this fix, offering out-of-staters seeking public records by pairing them with locals willing to co-file the requests.
At Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Steve Rendall discusses numerous stunning examples, historical and recent, of journalists withholding important stories from the public at the request of the federal government.
Journalism is supposed to hold power to account. That’s the principle implicit in the U.S. Constitution’s singling out a free press for protection. If that principle were respected, the Washington Post’s admission (2/6/13) that it and “several news organizations” made a deal with the White House to withhold the news that the U.S. has a drone base in Saudi Arabia would have been a red flag, triggering widespread discussion of media ethics. But these deals have become so commonplace that the story generated less concern among journalists than did the denial of press access to a recent presidential golf outing.
From an Alternet article by Steven Rosenfeld:
Whistleblowers are not spies or traitors, as the Bush and Obama administration’s lawyers have alleged. They are patriotic and often conservative Americans who work inside the government and with military contractors, and who find unacceptable—and often life-threatening—or illegal behavior goes unheeded when they report it through the traditional chain of command. They worry about doing nothing and feel compelled to go to the press, even if they suspect they may lose their jobs. What they don’t realize is that their lives will never quite be the same again, because they underestimate the years of government persecution that follows. [T]he whistleblower [is] a special kind of American hero—one whose importance is easily forgotten in today’s infotainment-drenched media. Since the Vietnam War in the 1960s, whistleblowers have been part of many history-changing events: questioning the war in Vietnam by releasing the Pentagon Papers on military’s failings; exposing the Watergate burglary that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation; exposing the illegal nationwide domestic spying program by the George W. Bush administration after 9/11; revealing the military’s failure to replace Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan with better bomb-deflecting vehicles, leading to hundreds of deaths and maimings . . .
According to recent polls, a growing number of Americans believe that the Second Amendment was put in the Bill of Rights in order to guarantee that our government will not impose any kind of tyranny upon us. That an armed populace is a bulwark against government oppression. [More . . . ]
One very common tactic for enforcing political orthodoxies is to malign the character, “style” and even mental health of those who challenge them. The most extreme version of this was an old Soviet favorite: to declare political dissidents mentally ill and put them in hospitals. In the US, those who take even the tiniest steps outside of political convention are instantly decreed “crazy”, as happened to the 2002 anti-war version of Howard Dean and the current iteration of Ron Paul (in most cases, what is actually “crazy” are the political orthodoxies this tactic seeks to shield from challenge). This method is applied with particular aggression to those who engage in any meaningful dissent against the society’s most powerful factions and their institutions.
Greg Palaste reports that the information released by Bradley Manning could have, almost, prevented the Deepwater Oil disaster. Manning’s release of data definitely shows corruption by the U.S. in covering up a BP’s dangerous method of capping its underwater wells with nitrogen-laced cement.
It is absurd for the U.S. to accuse Manning of attempting to aid U.S. enemies when Manning did not financially benefit in the least labors, continues to pay a huge price for providing valuable information to the People of the U.S., and his efforts continue to expose the U.S. government as corrupt.