Press freedom curtailed

As more evidence emerges of Yahoo’s complicity with the Chinese authorities in the jailing of dissident Jiang Lijun, Burundi is experiencing yet more government interference in press access. Amnesty reports:

Press freedom and human rights in Burundi suffered a severe blow yesterday, when around thirty journalists and human rights monitors were held – and some severely assaulted – by police officers after a press conference in Kinindo, Bujumbura.… 

Press freedom is also under attack in the US. Following the announcement of the Pulitzer Prize for journalism this week, according to Editor and Publisher, “William Bennett, former Reagan and George H.W. Bush administration official and now CNN commentator, said that three reporters who won Pulitzer Prizes yesterday were not “worthy of an award” but rather “worthy of jail.””

E&P continues:

He identified them as Dana Priest of The Washington Post, who wrote about the CIA’s “secret prisons” in Europe, and James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times, who exposed the National Security Agency’s domestic (a.k.a. terrorist) spy program.

Scott Johnson of the popular Powerline blog also weighed in today, under the heading “The Pulitzer Prize for Treason,” declaring “Today’s Pulitzer Prize award to the Times brings a new shame to the Pulitzer Prize committee.”

According to an E&P transcript of the audio of his radio program, Bill Bennett said that the reporters “took classified information, secret information, published it in their newspapers, against the wishes of the president, against the request of the president and others, that they not release it. They not only released it, they publicized it – they put it on the front page, and it damaged us, it hurt us.

“How do we know it damaged us? Well, it revealed the existence of the surveillance program, so people are going to stop making calls. Since they are now aware of this, they’re going to adjust their behavior…on the secret sites, the CIA sites, we embarrassed our allies…So it hurt us there.

“As a result are they punished, are they in shame, are they embarrassed, are they arrested? No, they win Pulitzer prizes – they win Pulitzer prizes. I don’t think what they did was worthy of an award – I think what they did is worthy of jail, and I think this investigation needs to go forward.”

Bennett’s tirade is a growing tactic of the desperate Right. In this worldview, anything that may hurt the US President – surely the job of any decent journalist? – is treasonous. In fact, with an administration as secretive and aggressive as this one, the US press has been remarkably compliant with its agenda post 9/11. It’s time to take the gloves off.