Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Leadership Silence and Freedom of the Press

Terrorism is not a threat to American democracy.   Terrorism doesn't have a chance against democracy.   What can destroy a democracy is government secrecy, that combined with the failure of the press to do its job poses a real threat.

Government secrecy becomes a greater threat when government attacks the press, and that's what we've been witnessing.   Reporters Without Borders has noticed.   In its latest rankings of press freedom, the United States has dropped significantly and deservedly so. 

As Reporters Without Borders reports in its assessment of the United States:

"Rather than pursuing journalists, the emphasis has been on going after their sources, but often using the journalist to identify them. No fewer that eight individuals have been charged under the Espionage Act since Obama became president, compared with three during Bush’s two terms. While 2012 was in part the year of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 2013 will be remember for the National Security Agency computer specialist Edward Snowden, who exposed the mass surveillance methods developed by the US intelligence agencies.
The whistleblower is the enemy. Hence the 35-year jail term imposed on Private Chelsea/Bradley Manning for being the big WikiLeaks source, an extremely long sentence but nonetheless small in comparison with the 105-year sentence requested for freelance journalist Barrett Brown in a hacking case. Amid an all-out hunt for leaks and sources, 2013 will also be the year of the Associated Press scandal, which came to light when the Department of Justice acknowledged that it had seized the news agency’s phone records."
Why are America's leaders silent about this administration's attacks on information, on sources, on its concerted effort to maximize secrecy in government?
Why are university presidents silent?
Why aren't directors of journalism schools across the country raising their voices?
Why aren't business leaders objecting?   A country without a free and vigorous press is a country in decline, and that's bad for business.
There have been a few light whimpers from those objecting to the Obama Administration's penchant for punishment, but why aren't the CEO's of every major media organization raising hell?   
Why are most members of Congress more upset with a whistleblower telling the truth than they are with a member of the secret government lying to Congress?   Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives should all be outraged at the conduct of a government that now has the United States rated 46th in press freedom.   
Think about it.  
The world's leading democracy is rated 46th in press freedom and our educational leaders don't make a peep?    The CEO's of our tech companies who turned over data for years without objection don't make a peep.   Business leaders don't make a peep.  Professional journalism schools don't object? The heads of every major media organization aren't raising holy hell?   We need more than the Guardian and Propublica and the Center for Public Integrity and Romenesko to show concern for press freedom.
The silence of America is a silence that threatens democracy.   Terrorists aren't the threat to American democracy.   Leadership silence is.   

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