Congress Moving To Kill Citizen Journalism

0 Shares
news_image

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is calling on Congress (and voters who elect Senators and Congressmen) to back off a pair of bills that take direct aim at the freedoms of bloggers, independent journalists and small media outlets to gain access to information while protecting their sources.

Introduced in May, the pair of bills (H.R. 1962 and S.B. 987) attempt to define who “journalists” are in such a way that favors the mainstream media while excluding just about everybody else. That’s accomplished with the phrase “covered person,” which the legislation goes on to define as someone who makes his living from researching and reporting the news or who regularly researches and reports news.

The problem with that, says EFF, is that the legislation seeks to endorse a professional class of journalists — ironically so, since the professional class of journalists is often most ineffectual, as industry maverick Gay Talese once observed. Why can’t Congress just do the Constitutional thing and submit to the idea that anyone, at any time, can be a “journalist?” If today’s lawmakers just have to fill their time in Washington by drafting more legislation, why can’t they at least do a little less harm by simply defining the practice of journalism instead of the person engaged in it?

If these bills–support for which the White House reaffirmed in its DOJ report–pass without change, Congress effectively will create two tiers of journalists: the institutional press licensed by the government, and everyone else. That’s a pretty flimsy shield if what we are really trying to protect is the free flow of information.

…So what’s the solution? Congress should link shield law protections to the practice of journalism as opposed to the profession. Not only does this fix ensure that bloggers and freelancers are not categorically denied access to the protections to which they should be entitled under the law, but also it addresses lawmakers’ concerns, recently voiced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in a June 26 op-ed, that in the absence of a legal definition of journalist anyone can claim to be one, thereby diluting the law by stretching it beyond any relevant boundaries. We can have a line in the sand; it simply needs to be one that is meaningfully tied to what journalism actually is…

It won’t be long before each bill comes up for a vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to begin marking up its version of the bill within a week. The House already has referred its version to two judiciary subcommittees. And the legislation, of course, has President Barack Obama’s full support.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

Join the Discussion

Comment Policy: We encourage an open discussion with a wide range of viewpoints, even extreme ones, but we will not tolerate racism, profanity or slanderous comments toward the author(s) or comment participants. Make your case passionately, but civilly. Please don't stoop to name calling. We use filters for spam protection. If your comment does not appear, it is likely because it violates the above policy or contains links or language typical of spam. We reserve the right to remove comments at our discretion.

  • Arjay

    Isn’t that sweet. If you can’t have the internet kill switch, just define who you will let BE a “journalist!”

    • Nadzieja Batki

      There’s more, they will have to join some group called “The American College of Universal Journalism” or some such and pay yearly dues to be represented. They will have to do synapsis of the stories they will be allowed to cover and will only write what they will be allowed to write. I am writing this serio-comic but the reality may be more tragic.

    • smilee

      Without a definition of what is the press and what is a journalist then all are that. Would you like all to considered doctors as well?? We define many jobs for clarification so all understand what they are. The Constitution gives freedom of the press but does not define it so one would think they were referring to what was understood to be the press of their day and to define that in more specific terms currently would be of great help in understanding that and not let every idiot who has freedom of speech be also a part of the press and also have freedom of the press. It lists the two as separate so one has to conclude they are separate.

      • vicki

        It is not the defining of a job that is of concern. It is the clear attempt to prevent people from speaking freely that is the concern.

        • smilee

          Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

          Rerad my post there is no clear attempt to prevent people from speaking freely and my post does not say that. I acknowledged freedom of speech and I assume you know that is people speaking freely but the press is separate in the amendment (see above) from freedom of speech and thus is different as the word or is between the two and if there is question on what is the press which is what is raised here then a definition of it is in order since it is expressed differently than freedom of speech. You cannot say it is defined so law and/or the courts can and should define it especially when it is used so much to day for propaganda purposes and so little to inform and that is of great concern, the press must have freedom of expression but that does not mean all persons speech is the press and the two are distinguished one from another as in the Constitution

          • vicki

            There is no separation. Commas are often used to indicate multiple objects of the verb. Thus freedom of the press (actually written vs spoken words) is fully protected. Or were you going to tell us that because the pen is not mentioned that only those with presses were allowed to provide written opinion?

          • smilee

            Where are you coming from?? I never mentioned the comma I mentioned it was separated by the word “OR” and that means not both or it would have said “AND” which it does not. I never said the press was the written word either I just said it was different from freedom of speech, your reference to the word pen is just as big a joke as it has no relevance to anything I wrote either. Such a silly come back!!!!!!!!

          • vicki

            The word ‘or’ is not a separator either. The word ‘or’ does not exclude the items on either side of the word.

            Were your assertion be correct you would have had to explain why all the other items separated by or are not also included under “Congress shall make no law…..”

          • smilee

            “OR” means freedom of speech or (freedom) of the press they did not write freedom of speech and the press, there is a distinction made between the two designated by the use of “OR”, it includes freedom for both but not necessarily meaning they viewed them the as the same. The press was viewed different than individual freedom of speech, and courts have held journalists can keep secret their sources but never that for the individual except in their fifth amendment rights indicating they view it differently as well so it would not be appropriate to conclude as you have.. Congress shall make no law that abridges either so that is not relevant as you indicate as the two being not the same can be viewed different by congress and the courts already have

          • vicki

            Smilee writes

            it includes freedom for both but not necessarily meaning they viewed them the as the same.

            Of course they did not view them as the same cause they KNEW that speech is oral and the press is written. That is why BOTH are there and why they are separated by a comma and the word ‘or’

            Which means that “Congress shall make no law….”

            Btw in case you have forgotten your own initial point let me remind yoiu that you said above

            not let every idiot who has freedom of speech be also a part of the press

            Whereas the entire intent of the 1st amendment is that every idiot who has freedom of speech (which is everyone) DOES have the RIGHT to be a part of the press.

          • smilee

            They never mentioned either oral or written and now I suppose you want us to believe you are capable of going back and reading their minds and claim here that is what they meant as you inserted that meaning not them and it means nothing in our debate as it is irrelevant, the coma separates but “OR” makes a distinction between them. Sure you have a right to be part of the press but that does not mean you are. Quit making things up and just address what is relevant.

          • vicki

            They did most certainly mention oral and written. It’s right there in the document. Let me quote it for you (again)

            “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

            See those words “speech” and “press”?

          • smilee

            Sure but not the words oral and written and they are not there as I pointed out to you, I never said speech and press were not there/ Better have your eyes checked grandma!!

          • vicki

            Ad hominem.

          • smilee

            Gotcha, no words or lies come to your mind, your stumped

          • vicki

            I need no words after you commit ad hominem. It shows the weakness of your argument.

          • TheOriginalDaveH

            And there you have it, Folks, from the mouth of a “compassionate” Liberal Progressive who wants you to trust your Health to him.
            Which one of these folks do you suppose is Sleepee?
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=t4BEY1lZDyg

          • smilee

            I spoke the truth you have something against that?

          • http://personalliberty.com/ Bob Livingston

            Dear smilee,

            You write: “Sure you have a right to be part of the press but that does not mean you are.” The Constitution does not define press as a separate class. Therefore the 9th and 10th Amendment come into play: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.–Amendment 9. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.–Amendment 10. Therefore your argument, “not let every idiot who has freedom of speech be also a part of the press” is sophistry.

            Best wishes,
            Bob

          • smilee

            Sure you have a right to be part of the press, I said exactly that, but are you telling me you believe 100% of the population is part of the press? I do not buy that and I never said they were a separate class I said they were different with the same rights of freedom

          • Ibn Insha

            That is exactly what Congress is trying to do, abridging our freedom of speech by defining journalism or journalist. So, if I reveal information about government’s unconstitutional activity, as a whistleblower, I will be forced to reveal the source because my actions did not fit the definition of journalist. I will be silenced because I was not a journalist and if the source is revealed he will be prosecuted as well because he did not reveal the information to a journalist. That way government can continue to do what it wants as the mainstream media is already a whore of liberals.

          • smilee

            Are you trying to convince us that you think everyone is a journalist??? It sounds like you are and you responded to me but not my post. Why not??

          • vicki

            One of the things being said is it does not matter if someone is a journalist or not. They still get freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

          • smilee

            Again your interpretation is based only on what you believe. An individual under oath must speak and tell the truth a journalist can refuse and most times the court supports that making clear there is a distinction between freedom of speech and freedom of the press which you conveniently dismiss and inject your own words and wish it to mean what you want, and that is not correct.

          • vicki

            Not on what I believe. What I read. Let me quote it for you.

            “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

            http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html

          • smilee

            Never disputeD even one word of it and even inserted it in one of my posts above. YOUR POINT IS WHAT????????????

          • vicki

            Smilee yells:

            YOUR POINT IS WHAT????????????

            That you want to suppress the freedom of the press. See all of your comments above for ample proof but this one in particular is telling.

            “not let every idiot who has freedom of speech be also a part of the press” – smilee

          • smilee

            Never once did I say anything about suppressing freedom of the press like you say I did, thar is a lie on your part, like I said you cannot understand anything and then spin what I said it to mean what you want my words to say but they are actually your words not mine. I said there is a distinction between the press and the population at large and the courts have clearly established that and you deny that too and insert your beliefs over theirs to.

          • vicki

            Smilee writes:

            Never once did I say anything about suppressing freedom of the press like you say I did, thar is a lie on your part,

            Even though I quoted his own words

            “not let every idiot who has freedom of speech be also a part of the press”

            Which is exactly what the founders intended. That everyone be able to speak and publish freely. He clearly does not wish everyone to be able to.

            “XII. That the people have a right to freedom of speech,
            and of writing, and publishing their sentiments; therefore
            the freedom of the press ought not to be restrained.”

            http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/bill_of_rightss5.html

            And that is from just ONE of the state Constitutions of the time.

      • JebadiahMurdock

        Freedom of the press, as written in the First Amendment to the Constitution is to protect a person’s right to publish any written material so long as it is not libellous in nature, and as such, most certainly does NOT make any distinction between someone who earns their livelihood researching and reporting the news, and someone who simply posts their opinions, in writing or electronically via the internet.

        • smilee

          I never said freedom of speech was limited to oral or any other kind and in any way limited, sure it includes a person’s right to express it in any way they see fit so long as it is not libelous in nature but a person’s right to personal freedom speech is different than freedom of the press and that has been held by the courts and written separate words in the Constitution . You as an individual cannot under oath refuse to answer unless you are a defendant in a criminal proceeding but a member of the press has often been able to do so without penalty albeit there have been cases were the opposite was true but never for the individual as the courts have held thus the distinction by the courts of the two, one who is a journalist and one who is an individual are viewed differently by the courts so your take is based on nothing more than your own interpretation and it appears in conflict with the courts making you wrong.

          • vicki

            Smilee writes

            but a person’s right to personal freedom speech is different than freedom of the press and that has been held by the courts and written separate words in the Constitution .

            Of course they are different. One is oral (speech) and one is written (press) Thus “Congress shall make no law…” for individuals exercising either right.

          • smilee

            Freedom of speech for the individual can be oral, written, electronic in many forms etc and is not limited to oral as you say and the founding fathers did not use the word oral you injected that meaning and it is not true also it fails to address my post. Press is not only in written, form, but in radio, tv, internet etc and it applies to all these not just written as you claim and the founding fathers never used the word written, you just made it up. I find it amazing you cannot get this through your head a it is quite simple. Why do you make these things up??

          • vicki

            I am making nothing up. The founders were quite clear what speech was and what the press was. That you can’t keep track of the point is not their problem nor is it mine.

          • smilee

            IF IT IS SO CLEAR WHY ARE YOU HAVING SO MUCH TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING IT???????????

          • vicki

            I am not the one having trouble with understanding. Nice of you to yell btw.

          • vicki

            I am not the one having trouble with understanding. Nice of you to yell btw.

          • smilee

            I thought maybe you could hear the truth if I did but it did not change your ability to understand anything any better as you still do not understand nor does it appear you can even understand what you are saying your one mixed up gal that

          • TheOriginalDaveH

            Ever heard of periods, Sleepee. They’re those things that we use to separate sentences. How do you expect to have any credibility when you can’t even speak proper English?

          • smilee

            Does not matter as you are incapable of understanding the content anyhow and the content is the what is most matters

          • TheOriginalDaveH

            She’s not, Sleepee. You’re just doing your Liberal Progressive Equivocation thing.

          • TheOriginalDaveH

            Where does it say that in the Constitution, Sleepee?

          • smilee

            Say what????????

      • TheOriginalDaveH

        Sleepee says — “Would you like all to considered doctors as well?”.
        The answer is YES, if a voluntary participant considers them so.

  • vicki

    I don’t suppose that Congress has bothered to read the only amendment in the whole Bill of Rights that has their name in it. Then again it is pretty obvious that they don’t care about it so why bother to read the Constitution at all.

  • vicki

    The OP writes:

    “Introduced in May, the pair of bills (H.R. 1962 and S.B. 987)
    attempt to define who “journalists” are in such a way that favors the
    mainstream media while excluding just about everybody else. That’s
    accomplished with the phrase “covered person,” which the legislation
    goes on to define as someone who makes his living from researching and
    reporting the news or who regularly researches and reports news.”

    Ummm. If they really did it that way they would not be favoring MSM cause MSM has not done any research on and reporting of NEWS in years.

  • Warrior

    “legal definition of a journalist”? Now how in the world did we survive all these years without knowing this? That’s it! I’m throwing my hat into the ring for the upcoming 2014 elections because it has now become absolutely, positively, crystal clear to me that there are soooo many important issues to be addressed by our esteemed “senate” that I feel the need to partake in. As I peruse my “legal dictionary”, I can’t seem to locate the definition of what is a “senator dick durbin”. Hmmm, A, B, C, “community organizer”, D, diane Feinstein,,,,,F, friggin useless “progressive”. Nevermind, I found it!

  • me

    Next is the internet… The only thing they’ll approve is the big business elitist owned news media like cnn, cbs, fox. nbc, abc, etc. More of the socialism of this country. Government rules, the people are no longer important.

  • Joe C

    This is just another move by the Politburo in D.C. to bring us all in line with Orwell’s concept of “Right-think” and “Right-speak” etc. Every one should go back and read all of Orwell’s writings. He knew what he was talking about because he was a part of the conspiracy. He was a member of the London Fabian Socialist Society, whose coat of arms was a wolf clothed in a sheep’s skin, literally.

  • WTS/JAY

    See Who Sponsored and Cosponsored This Bill

    Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)

    Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI)

    Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

    Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

    Sen. John Isakson (R-GA)

    Sen. Thomas Harkin (D-IA)

    Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)

    Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

    Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

    Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

    Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)

    Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

    Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

    Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)

    Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)

    Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

    Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)

    16 Demonrats — and only 3 Repugs; And the legislation, of course, has President Barack Obama’s full support!!!

  • WTS/JAY

    See Who Sponsored and Cosponsored This Bill S.987

    Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX-2nd district)

    Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-9th district)

    Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH-1st district)

    Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN-4th district)

    Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN-3rd district)

    Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX-24th district)

    Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN-4th district)

    Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL-19th district)

    Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18th district)

    Rep. James Langevin (D-RI-2nd district)

    Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-9th district)

    Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA-18th district)

    Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI-2nd district)

    Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA-3rd district)

    Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17th district)

    Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12th district)

    Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-8th district)

    Rep. James Himes (D-CT-4th district)

    Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1st district)

    Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX-12th district)

    Rep. Henry Johnson (D-GA-4th district)

    Rep. Donna Christensen (D-VI-at large)

    Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC-6th district)

    Rep. William Enyart (D-IL-12th district)

    Rep. Billy Long (R-MO-7th district)

    Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-13th district)

    Rep. Matthew Cartwright (D-PA-17th district)

    Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL-13th district)

    Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19th district)

    Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX-27th district)

    Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37th district)

    Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT-at large)

    Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI-7th district)

    Rep. Richard Nolan (D-MN-8th district)

    Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID-1st district)

    Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX-19th district)

    Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN-6th district)

    Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA-5th district)

    Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA-16th district)

    Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA-27th district)

    Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT-at large)

    Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY-3rd district)

    Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA-2nd district)

    Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23rd district)

    Rep. Theodore Deutch (D-FL-21st district)

    Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-8th district)

    Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10th district)

    Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-4th district)

    9 Repugs and 30 Demonrats; And the legislation, of course, has President Barack Obama’s full support!!!

  • Michael Shreve

    “… (H.R. 1962 and S.B. 987) attempt to define who “journalists” are in such a way that favors the mainstream media while excluding just about everybody else.”

    Freedom of the press, like freedom of speech, CANNOT be regulated by government. RIGHTS may not be INFRINGED in ANY way. There IS NO government power to anoint JOURNALISTS.

    • Paul

      You’re so funny Michael; you are a true dreamer. Please get your head out of your butt and face reality. As Chaves stated, he who controls the media controls the nation (or something to that effect).
      Our Constitution is only a fantasy. Government controls us now we we the people allowed it to happen.

  • plaintired

    Trying to take our 2nd Amendment RIGHTS isn’t enough for this Dictatorial Regime. Now after eliminating the 4th already, and at least part of the 5th, they’re going after the 1st Amendment? They get to decide who is protected by the FREEDOM OF SPEECH? I’m sorry did they miss the memo about the Oath they took to defend and uphold the Constitution, “SO HELP THEM GOD”? I must have dozed off during the Coup, or the Coronation of the King of America, whatever catastrophe it was that permitted this to happen.

  • digitaldean

    Already contacted my Rep., Reid Ribble, (R-WI) to fight this idiotic legistlation. Very disappointed in Sean Duffy, thought he would have more scruples than that.

  • IBCAMN

    the corrupt cops don’t like being video taped,they cannot carry out the agenda of socialism(marxism)and the distruction of the US without corrupt cops!
    if we catch them constantly breaking the law and killing people and generating county and state revenue,it slows down the progressive agenda!
    if this passes,we’ll find a way around it!never stop filming the cops,ever!!
    they just want the corrupt media,the media they can lie to and get to lie to us!

  • underjones

    I read the definitions in both bills. This is “much ado about nothing.” If you really think this bill is a problem, then you either did not read it, or you did not understand it.

    • TheOriginalDaveH

      They call it the “‘Free Flow of Information Act of 2013″, and then go on to cite those protected as “Covered Persons”. What is a “Covered Person”?
      From H. R. 1962:
      “COVERED PERSON.—The term ‘‘covered person’’ means a person who, for financial gain or livelihood, is engaged in journalism”.

      Free Flow of Information, my arse.

      • underjones

        Financial gain = you have an ad on your web/blog page.

        • TheOriginalDaveH

          Would you bet your Freedom of Speech on that?

          • underjones

            Don’t really have to. The only good thing the SCOTUS does anymore is defend speech, and this legislation has two components that would make the law either 1) unconstitutional in whole, or 2) act exactly as I said.

            Don’t get me wrong, it is stupid legislation, but I really don’t think that it is the danger to freedom that people fear.

          • TheOriginalDaveH

            Jones,
            No doubt it is Unconstitutional, but when has that stopped the Supreme Court? They rarely rule against the Federal Government. Remember they are still in the Federal Gang.

  • Michelle Yeack Brantley Johnso

    The Bill is a time waster. Waste of my time Peoples Time and the Time to daily with it at all on Government level. we need to call them and tell them to work on REAL issues or they are fired!!

  • Patriot66

    TRUE journalism has been dead for some time now and is actually stinking up the place. ALL mainstream news has been edited, tweaked and twisted so far from the original “journalists” story that the only interesting parts are the comments by bloggers after the story. Blogging has become the “Keeping it real” part of the propaganda machine of mainstream media.

  • TheOriginalDaveH

    Gretchen Higgins Mullins says — “Perhaps you should read the original text of the bill which was introduced by Rep. Ted Poe, a Republican from Texas. It has nothing to do with citizen “journalism””.

    Okay Gretchen Higgins Mullins, from the text of the Bill:
    “COVERED PERSON.—The term ‘‘covered person’’ means a person who, for financial gain or livelihood, is engaged in journalism”.
    That doesn’t cover many (if not most) of the websites.