Thursday, October 18, 2007

Protecting the (Theoretical) Freedom of the Press

Mikaela says:
Three cheers for the House of Representatives, who voted with a veto-proof majority (which they very-much need, as Emperor Bush is hopping on his veto pen like a pogo stick to get their attention) to pass the Shield Law, offering protection to journalists against government efforts to force them to reveal their anonymous sources.

Republican Michael Pence of Indiana, one of the bill's sponsors and a former talk-radio host, says charmingly:

"What's a conservative like me doing passing legislation that would help reporters? As a conservative who believes in limited government, I believe the only check on government in real time is the freedom of the press."

Quite nice, Mike, although I'd like to underscore that the most POWERFUL check on government is in fact -- the other branches of government. But I digress...

This is a huge hole in our free country that's knit nicely by this legislation. We've seen in the last few years how important it is that whistleblowers have protected access to journalists, and the only way to sustain that trust over time is to protect journalists from fear of government reprisals when they try to protect their sources.

Realizing this cuts both ways -- Judith got to protect Scooter Libby, Matt Cooper got to protect Karl Rove, and Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein famously got to protect Deep Throat during Watergate -- the law is meant to protect the least of us, to err on the side of free information, to reinforce our constitution and the checks and balances that make it work.

This works a lot better if the Executive Branch can't throw reporters in jail when they won't reveal their sources just because they're 1) doing their job, 2) revealing important TRUTHS about what's going on, and 3) helping America be the best, fairest country it can be (my upside-down flag is really flying here, can you see it?).

Now if only a "free press" were to actually emerge, that would be great. Or if our current paid-for press would step up and do the reporting and find the bureaucrats who you know are about ready to pee in their pants they've been holding it for so long, I'd vote for that, too.