Government Constraints Placed on Press


Without freedom of speech and press in the U.S., an important bridge connecting the public to government actions is shattered. It is in the press’ best interest to deliver fact-based news to the public, and interference in our free press could lead to disaster.

What would the nation be like if the reporters at The Washington Post had never uncovered the Watergate scandal? If journalists were restricted in reporting what is printed regarding the government, the U.S. would not be the same. Countless nation-changing stories have been reported over the years because of our country’s freedom of press.

However, over the past few weeks, the Department of Justice has been caught up in cases involving seizure of journalists’ telephone records and notes through the manipulation of the Espionage Act, sending the media into a panic.

Attorney General Eric Holder testified before Congress May 23, saying he had signed a search warrant allowing the Department of Justice’s seizure of Fox News reporter James Rosen’s private emails. Holder had suggested that Rosen was a “possible” co-conspirator in violations of the Espionage Act, which is what allowed the warrant to be filled out.

The Espionage Act was formed to restrict free speech concerning militia operations during wartime. The controversy with this warrant is that the Department of Justice is merely suggesting that Rosen could have violated the Espionage Act, but they are not taking any action. In other words, they are not taking Rosen to court, but are still granted access to seize his personal information.

This is a journalist’s nightmare. To have the Department of Justice able to manipulate the Espionage Act to accuse, but not charge, in order to get information from reporters without facing the chances of public humiliation within court, is unspeakably terrible. This allows the freedoms the press is granted in the U.S. Constitution to be cut down dramatically.

If the government deems a media story to be in violation of the Espionage Act or to be a threat to the government, they can potentially stop the printing of the story and obtain personal information simply with a suggestion.

This could set America back drastically after years of history with freedom. Are we soon going to be reliving the Red Scare, where only the suggestion of being a traitor would cause a loss in a job, home, family and freedom? The issue is in addition closely connected to the freedoms that benefit all Americans. Losing those freedoms means losing the overall image that has built America up throughout history.