Press freedom is an essential part of liberty, and without liberty there is no security. It’s good to see the CEO of AP speaking up about this, after Julian Assange, Bruce Schneier, and Benjamin Franklin.
Colleen Slevin wrote for AP yesterday, AP CEO: Press freedom v. security a ‘false choice’,
Governments that try to force citizens to decide between a free press and national security create a “false choice” that weakens democracy, and journalists must fight increasing government overreach that has had a chilling effect on efforts to hold leaders accountable, the president and CEO of The Associated Press said Saturday.
Gary Pruitt told the 69th General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association that the U.S. Justice Department’s secret seizure of records of thousands of telephone calls to and from AP reporters in 2012 is one of the most blatant violations of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution the 167-year-old news cooperative has ever encountered.
The Justice Department action involving the AP resonated far beyond the U.S., including Latin America, where journalists for decades have fought to exercise press freedoms under authoritarian regimes, Pruitt said.
“The actions by the Department of Justice could not have been more tailor-made to comfort authoritarian regimes who want to suppress the news media. ‘The United States does it too,’ they can say,” Pruitt said.
A free and independent press “differentiates democracy from dictatorship; separates a free society from tyranny,” he said.
“Governments who try to set up a situation where citizens think they must choose between a free press and security are making a mistake that will ultimately weaken them, not strengthen them. It’s not a real choice. It is a false choice.”
As Julian Assange pointed out two years ago, “the citizenry has a right to scrutinise the state.”
“Individuals, not governments, have a right to privacy. Strong powers must be held to account, while the weak must be protected. We believe in transparent power, not in transparent people. We publish material that is in the public interest. For us as the European Court of Human Rights and the British Court of Appeals has held, the decisive factor in balancing the protection of private life against freedom of expression should like in the contribution the material has make to the debate of general interest.”
Press freedom is an essential part of liberty. Bruce elaborated:
If privacy and security really were a zero-sum game, we would have seen mass immigration into the former East Germany and modern-day China. While it’s true that police states like those have less street crime, no one argues that their citizens are fundamentally more secure.
As I pointed out seven years ago, liberty is security:
One method to attenuate [suicide bombers], then, is to target dangerous groups that influence individuals, such as Al Qaeda. Another method, says Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger, is to increase the civil liberties of the countries that breed terrorist groups. In an analysis of State Department data on terrorism, Krueger discovered that “countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which have spawned relatively many terrorists, are economically well off yet lacking in civil liberties. Poor countries with a tradition of protecting civil liberties are unlikely to spawn suicide terrorists. Evidently, the freedom to assemble and protest peacefully without interference from the government goes a long way to providing an alternative to terrorism.” Let freedom ring!
— Murdercide Science unravels the myth of suicide bombers By Michael Shermer, Scientific American 26 December 2005.
As Stewart Alsop pointed out 56 years ago when Eisenhower was president,
It might make life simpler for high officials such as Mr. Cutler if the American people were obedient sheep who unquesiontingly obeyed the orders of daddy Governement. But the United States is not the Soviet Union. It is, instead, a society in which the Government derives its authority from the people. And such society is instantly in deadly danger if the essential facts on which to reach a reasoned judgment are concealed by the Government from the people.
As Ben Franklin pointed out 254 years ago, even before he was hauled into court in London and unfairly maligned for the “crime” of distributing some government communications that he got from an anonymous source,
“Those who would give up Essential Liberty
to purchase a little Temporary Safety,
deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
— Benjamin Franklin, An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania, 1759
And 254 years ago writer, printer, and newspaperman Franklin wrote On the Freedom of the Press,
While free from Force the Press remains,
Virtue and Freedom chear our Plains,
And Learning Largesses bestows,
And keeps unlicens’d open House.
We to the Nation’s publick Mart
Our Works of Wit, and Schemes of Art,
And philosophic Goods, this Way,
Like Water carriage, cheap convey.
This Tree which Knowledge so affords,
Inquisitors with flaming swords
From Lay-Approach with Zeal defend,
Lest their own Paradise should end.
The Press from her fecundous Womb
Brought forth the Arts of Greece and Rome;
Her offspring, skill’d in Logic War,
Truth’s Banner wav’d in open Air;
The Monster Superstition fled,
And hid in Shades in Gorgon Head;
And awless Pow’r, the long kept Field,
By Reason quell’d, was forc’d to yield.
This Nurse of Arts, and Freedom’s Fence,
To chain, is Treason against Sense:
And Liberty, thy thousand Tongues
None silence who design no Wrongs;
For those who use the Gag’s Restraint,
First Rob, before they stop Complaint.
Freedom’s Fence against the Monster Superstition.
Superstitions like the War on Terror and the War on Drugs.