Thursday, July 07, 2005

Another Blow for Freedom of the Press

We have been through this before: a free and independent press is required to maintain liberty within a democracy. Most courts have upheld the validity of confidentiality agreements between journalists and anonymous sources in order to preserve a free press. Only in times of fear, courts, and even publishers, have been less likely to follow this trend.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) declared that “the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.”

The Constitution of Massachusetts (1780) stated, “The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore, to be restrained...”

And, of course, the First Amendment to our Constitution, adopted in 1791, says that no law shall abridge “the freedom of speech, or of the press”.

Judith Miller of the New York Times was sent to prison yesterday for refusing to divulge an anonymous source as a result of Grand Jury proceedings in connection with the naming of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative. Miller never wrote a story naming Plame, and it is not known why she has been called upon to name her source, except that it is vaguely connected to the investigation trying to pinpoint the leak.

Miller: “I do not make confidentiality pledges lightly, but when I do I must honour them.”

Yet another blow to our free press.


Riggs is Crazy said...

What about responsibility in reporting? Just because people know something, doesn't mean they should report on it. It works both ways.

Monkey's Max said...

Riggs, Miller is not the one who named Valerie Plame.

In a more general sense, it depends what you are talking about - it seems that every situation would have to be judged according to its own circumstances.