Thursday, June 09, 2005

Lyle highlights Congress Rep. Jim McDermott's statement on the First Amendment

Lyle e-mailed the following from Congressman Jim McDermott's web site. It's a public statement and available online at a government site so, translation, it should be in the public domain so we'll be printing it in full. From "Freedom of the Press and the Public's Right To Know:"

I'd like to call attention to an issue of extreme and growing importance: an alarming trend in the dilution of First Amendment rights regarding freedom of the press. Today reporters are being compelled to reveal their confidential sources-or else face jail time and/or stiff fines. Prosecutors are insisting upon this and judges are backing up their demands by ordering reporters to testify and provide confidential information.
This is turning the news media into an investigative arm of the judicial system and a research tool of the government-exactly the opposite of what it is supposed to be. The increasing pressure on journalists will most certainly lead to a decline in investigative reporting, threatening freedom of press and the public's need, and right, to know.
This trend is not just talk, although anecdotally, the past few years document the greatest assault on source confidentiality in the U.S. in decades. Hard evidence and more specific statistics are being sought so that this issue can be brought to the attention of the nation without room for dispute.
In fact, in an effort to uncover statistics that the government is unwilling to disclose, I have just filed a
Freedom of Information (FOI) request [Adobe Reader®] to the Department of Justice, asking for access to and copies of records which show the number of subpoenas requested, as well as the number of subpoenas authorized, in order to obtain information from, or about, members of the news media in the years 2001-2004.
I believe this information will prove that my concerns with the First Amendment go farther than just anecdotes. As soon as I obtain this information, I will release it to the public, as I feel it will be very eye-opening.
The protection of freedom of the press is a central pillar of our democracy, and sharing information with the public is imperative in a nation with these strong democratic traditions.
Other countries are being sent the wrong message when they look to us and see the precedents that we are setting. For example, when Venezuelan officials were recently criticized for adopting a restrictive new media law, they immediately cited a ruling that sentenced a Rhode Island journalist to six months house arrest for refusing to divulge a source.
As is evident from Venezuela, instances such as these are bound to weaken freedom of press in other countries, where reporters are already more frequently forced to cooperate in government investigations. The last thing we need is for international journalists to be questioning our dedication to upholding free speech guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.
We must do something to remedy this situation that is making honest journalism and true confidential sources a thing of the past. The administration and judiciary should exercise greater discretion in requiring reporters to reveal their sources so that journalists and every American can regain their confidence in the First Amendment's protection.

For more information about and from Jim McDermott visit his web site. In addition, you can utilize Democracy Now! for more information such as this May 7, 2004 report "Rep McDermott On White House Secrecy, Kerry's Lean to the Right and Why Rumsfeld Should Resign."

From that interview:

AMY GOODMAN: Now you've got people like Nancy Pelosi calling for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, but then New York congress member Charles Rangel is calling for his impeachment. It might surprise some that a Defense Secretary could be impeached. What's the difference?
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT: I think that the problem is that we all know that President Bush is not going to remove him. He's not going to quit.
AMY GOODMAN: You don't think he would be the fall guy?
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT: No. No. They will never admit they made a mistake. I think that that's -- I mean, that's why the President went out there, and had to be taken out into the rose garden twice before he could finally say, I'm sorry for what happened. He never said he was sorry to Muslims. He said I'm sorry to the families of those people who were mistreated. But -- a much larger apology was necessary for anybody to believe him. So I think Charlie Rangel is just dealing with reality when he says that -- we're going to have to wind up having to impeach this guy.

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