Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Can This Supreme Court Ever Get it Right?

Well, the outrages just keep on coming, don't they?  The Supreme Court declined to review the case of James Risen, NYT reporter who might face jail for protecting a source.  This is especially troubling as it seems his testimony really isn't needed to pursue the case against the source!

In how many ways is this wrong?  How can a Free Press (yes, capitals are deserved) do its job without protecting sources which often might face retribution, prosecution, or even other dangers?  How can the press serve the public in making transparent government misconduct if sources are afraid to talk to the media?  How is allowing only government sanctioned reporting in the public interest?  And why do we have to keep fighting this battle?

As you ponder those questions, here are two quotes which are germane:

First: Justice Hugo Black in the Pentagon Papers case (NYT v. United States) -
"Both the history and language of the First Amendment support the view that the press must be left free to publish news, whatever the source, without censorship, injunctions, or prior restraints."

Second: from James Alexander in the Weekly Journal printed by John Peter Zenger back in the 1730's -
"The loss of liberty in general would soon follow the suppression of the liberty of the press; for it is an essential branch of liberty, so perhaps it is the best preservative of the whole.  Even a restraint of the press would have a fatal influence.  No nation ancient or modern has ever lost the liberty of freely speaking, writing or publishing their sentiments, but forthwith lost their liberty in general and became slaves."
You can find out more about the Zenger trial here .

Now back to the case of Mr. Risen.  Many organizations have voiced support for him.  The Freedom of the Press Foundation has a fine post about his case on its blog.  In whatever ways we can, we need to support him.

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