Over the past thirteen days, since the Republican Trifecta of attacks on President Barack Obama began, a Shield Law for Journalists has been called for in many quarters. That is because the Justice Department got a subpoena for telephone records from the Associated Press. President Obama has called for Shield Law too; however, some question his sincerity. But, doesn’t there have to be some basis, under the Law, for a subpoena to be issued?
To me, there are two components that a Shield Law should have. First, it should include the whole First Amendment to the Constitution, since there is some correlation between the Rights of Religious Freedom; Speech and Press: and Assembly. Second, protection afforded journalists’ sources should apply to information provided to reveal improprieties by governments, corporations or other organizations–and not to protect crooks. Rather than confuse the two components, I will address them in separate Blog Posts.
There was an interesting column recently, in The Indianapolis Star, by Jonah Goldberg, linked as follows: http://www.indystar.com/print/article/20130527/OPINION/305270003/Jonah-Goldberg-Press-doesn-t-always-defend-entire-First-Amendment. Mr. Goldberg points out that Journalists seem to focus all their effort on Freedom of the Press, without even considering the rest of the First Amendment to the Constitution–Freedom of Religion and the Right to Assemble. (His column quotes the entire First Amendment, which is not long.)
So, what is the difference in a Government controlling my access to Information (Press), telling me how to shape my views (Religion), or limiting the ability to voice my opinions, or hear what others may have to say (Assembly)? Aren’t these merely just several variations on the same theme? I agree with Mr. Goldberg that Journalists should not just pick and choose which parts of the Amendment that they wish to champion.
The correlation of addressing the whole Amendment can be looked at in the context of a Woman’s Right to use Contraceptives. Currently, it is legal; however, some states are trying to eliminate that Right, based on religious or moral beliefs. Trying to force people what to do or how to think, at least to me, is exactly the same as: forcing one’s religion on others; limiting their freedom of speech or press; or speaking-up in public to share one’s views with others.
There must have been a reason why our Founding Fathers, in ratifying the First Amendment (actually the first ten), in 1791, grouped the Freedoms of Religion, Speech and Press, and Assembly together. Accordingly, they should each be afforded equal consideration and protection under the Law. Generally, any denial or impairment of the Rights would be made known through the Print or Broadcast Media. Hence, the focus on Journalist sources in the Shield Law, but its protects should include all of the Freedoms in the Amendment.