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article imageOp-Ed: U.S. launches ‘Free the Press’ campaign, and it’s not satire

By Justin King     Apr 28, 2014 in World
Washington - The U.S. State Department has launched its annual "Free the Press" campaign. The humor of a country that ranks 46th in press freedom and that has been relentlessly persecuting whistlelblowers and journalists hosting such an event seems lost on officials.
The State Department press release includes no indication that the document is an elaborate hoax or is written with satire in mind, but rather seems to suggest that government officials believe they have the moral authority to tell other nations how they should treat their press. The statement reads in part:
The Free the Press campaign is part of the Department’s honoring of World Press Freedom Day on May 3. This year, the Department will profile journalists or media outlets that are censored, attacked, threatened, or otherwise oppressed because of their reporting. The Department will direct the world’s attention to their plight and call on their governments to protect and promote the universal human right to free expression.
Activists from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) paste a poster to mark the 20th annual World Press Fr...
Activists from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) paste a poster to mark the 20th annual World Press Freedom day in the Opera Metro (subway) station in Paris May 3, 2013
© Reuters / Benoit Tessier
Elsewhere in the U.S. government, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is pushing the Supreme Court to jail Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times Journalist James Risen for not disclosing his sources. Common law precedent clearly grants journalists a privilege to not disclose sources similar to lawyer-client confidentiality.
Associated Press reporter Mathew Lee pulled no punches when he questioned State Department officials about the lunacy of perpetuating the charade of an unrestricted free press in the United States. The transcript of the question and answer session, provided by BoingBoing.net, illustrates the administration’s apparent disconnect between what it does to journalists within the borders of the U.S. and what it thinks other countries should do overseas.
JENNIFER PSAKI: One more announcement for all of you: With World Press Freedom Day around the world on May 3rd, the department will launch its third annual Free the Press campaign later this afternoon in New York at the U.S. U.N. mission. Beginning on Monday and all of next week, we will highlight emblematic cases of imperiled reporters and media outlets that have been targeted, oppressed, imprisoned or otherwise harassed because of their professional work. The first two cases will be announced by Assistant Secretary -- Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski later at the -- at U.S. U.N. And we invite you of course to follow Tom at Twitter, who has -- on Twitter who, as you all know, was just confirmed several weeks, @Malinowski and to keep up with human rights issues on DRL's website.
With that --
Q: Sure. Just on that, reporters who are, what, harassed? I'm sorry --
MS. PSAKI: Targeted, oppressed, imprisoned or otherwise harassed.
Q: Otherwise harassed. Does that include those who may have been targeted, harassed, imprisoned and otherwise whatever by the United States government?
MS. PSAKI: I'm --
Q: No?
MS. PSAKI: I think you're familiar with our Free the Press campaign, Matt, but --
Q: Fair enough. So it does not include those who might have been harassed by --
MS. PSAKI: We highlight, as we often do, where we see issues with media freedom around the world.
Q: Right, I understand. But you would say that you don't -- the U.S. does not believe that it has a problem with press freedom, or if it does, that it's not nearly as severe as the problems in other countries.
MS. PSAKI: We do not. I think we can look at many of the problems --
On media press freedom?
Oh. Go ahead. And then we'll go to you, (Paul ?).
Did you have another question on media press freedom, or --
...
Q: If I could just go back to the overall, in general, the administration does not regard attempting to prosecute American journalists as an infringement of press freedom?
The Guardian and the Washington Post shared a Pulitzer Prize for reporting leaks from former Nationa...
The Guardian and the Washington Post shared a Pulitzer Prize for reporting leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that revealed a global surveillance network monitoring millions of Americans and foreigners
Saul Loeb, AFP/File
MS. PSAKI: I'm not sure which case you're -- what you're referring to.
Q: Well, there's several cases that are out there right now. The one that comes -- springs to mind is the James Risen case, where the Justice Department is attempting to prosecute. I just want to be clear. I'm not trying to --
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I --
Q: I just want to know if you regard that as an infringement on press freedom or not. And I suspect that you do not, but I want to make sure that that's the case.
MS. PSAKI: As you know, and I'll, of course, refer to the Department of Justice, but the leaking of classified information is in a separate category. What we're talking about here, as you all know and unfortunately we have talk about on a regular basis here, is the targeting of journalists, the arrests, the imprisonment for simply exercising their ability to tell the story.
Q: Right. I understand that. And we're all, I'm sure, myself and all my colleagues, we're very appreciative of that.
But the reporters in question here have not leaked the information; they simply published it. So is it correct, then, that you don't believe -- you don't regard that as an infringement of press freedom?
MS. PSAKI: We don't. I don't have anything more to say on that case.
Q: OK.
MS. PSAKI: Do we have a new topic?
Mathew Lee’s pointed questioning will probably land him on a no-fly list due to the immense amount of freedom the US government grants journalists that do not simply do as they're told like the obedient lackeys many in Western media have become. Due to the policies of the last few administrations, it wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable to expect that the next contact Americans have from Lee is via a postcard from Guantanamo Bay.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden speaks via videoconference at the "Virtual Conversation With E...
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden speaks via videoconference at the "Virtual Conversation With Edward Snowden" during the 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at the Austin Convention Center on March 10, 2014 in Austin, Texas
Michael Buckner, Getty/AFP/File
Barret Brown, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, James Risen, and scores of others can attest to freedoms afforded whistleblowers and journalists in the post-9/11 banana republic that the United States has become. The American people should not participate in any way with this farce of a campaign conducted by a government that illegally spies on journalists by tapping their phones and attempts to narrowly define who can be considered a journalist through legislation. Senator Feinstein’s proposed legislation also grants the government the power to define what is a “legitimate news-gathering activity.” The precedent built by the last two Presidents’ administrations clearly shows that the only legitimate news is that which was manufactured in government offices and contained on the press releases issued to the White House Press Corp to regurgitate to the American people.
The mainstream media in the US has become nothing but the propaganda machine of the government, and the best journalists fled that corporate-owned and politician-approved machine long ago. Those journalists have set up independent news sites, and in Glenn Greewald’s case found the funding to establish a news organization dedicated to adversarial journalism. Mathew Lee is just the latest in a long string of real journalists who have had enough of the Orwellian doublespeak they are forced to engage in everyday. If it weren’t for the actions of those journalists who still prefer the truth over pats on the head from the government, the United States would be paying death benefits to soldiers being flown home from Syria who died in a war advocated by a collection of former officials who stood to make profits off of the intervention.
Smart phones for best cell phone deal
Smart phones of your choice
Rob Campbell
Most American citizens have access to the entirety of the world’s knowledge base in their pocket. It is past time for Americans to stop using their smartphones to post selfies and look at pictures of cute cats. Those devices grant the user access to news sites from around the world where differing, and typically more accurate, news reports can be found. Americans are fond of saying that the United States is the greatest country in the world; it is time that the citizens started informing themselves so they can act like it.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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