Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Senate getting into the definition business

Citing a bogus need to protect journalists, a Senate panel starts down a dangerous path with respect to a free press and free speech.

From the Associated Press:

A Senate panel on Thursday approved a measure defining a journalist, which had been an obstacle to broader media shield legislation designed to protect reporters and the news media from having to reveal their sources.

The Judiciary Committee's action cleared the way for approval of legislation prompted by the disclosure earlier this year that the Justice Department had secretly subpoenaed almost two months of telephone records for 21 phone lines used by reporters and editors for The Associated Press and secretly used a warrant to obtain some emails of a Fox News journalist. The subpoenas grew out of investigations into leaks of classified information to the news organizations.

The AP received no advance warning of the subpoena.

The vote was 13-5 for a compromise defining a "covered journalist" as an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The individual would have been employed for one year within the last 20 or three months within the last five years.

The committee later approved the overall bill on a 13-5 vote.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a chief proponent of the medial shield legislation, worked with Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., as well as representatives from news organizations, on the compromise.

The bill would protect reporters and news media organizations from being required to reveal the identities of confidential sources, but it does not grant an absolute privilege for journalists.

Everybody else... forget about it.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., complained that the definition of a journalist was too broad. Pushing back, Feinstein said the intent was to set up a test to determine a bona fide journalist.

"I think journalism has a certain tradecraft. It's a profession. I recognize that everyone can think they're a journalist," Feinstein said.

But Di-Fi and the rest of our betters will figure that out for the rest of us. Don't you worry.

If you are thinking like we are, we don't particularly feel comfortable with that pack of jackals in the Senate defining who is and is not a journalist, particularly if it comes down to what Schumer, Durbin and Feinstein think.

Now, one would think that news organizations as 4th estate pillars would be speaking out against this curtailment of free speech but that's not how things work in the rent-seeking culture of Washington D.C. Let's just say that if you are not at the table then you are on the menu and any chance outfits like Associated Press and Rueters can curry most-favored status from Congress they are going to jump at that opportunity.

And we have said this before as well: this isn't about protecting whatever arbitrary definition of "journalist" the Senate comes up with, this is all about control. Senate Democrats acting on the cue from their boss aren't concerned with transparency and responsible governance. Picking winners and losers with respect to who is and is not a "journalist", creating a caste system, if you will, makes it that much easier to control the messaging coming out of Washington D.C.

Pesky websites like HotAir or Instapundit can then be marginalized or worse yet, be acted against once we start travelling down this road of who does and doesn't deserve protection under the 1st amendment.

This is a horrible piece of legislation that if it does get out of Senate will die in the House and which is another reminder of how critical it is for the (R)s to hold said House in 2014.


drozz said...

damn, you beat me to it. linked.

Dean said...

Thanks, drozz!