Totalitarianism-Light, Government Defining Who Can Be a Journalist


Democrats have talked about defining what a journalist is or isn’t and licensing them. Since the right is being censored on all of social media, it would be dangerous for them. It’s dangerous for the alternative left media as well.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is known for taking up causes that would be best left alone. He currently wants to fix the Shield Laws and in his bill, the politicians would get to define a “journalist”. It’s totalitarianism-light.

Alarmingly, Schumer recently announced that the Senate has the votes to pass a bill that would codify legal protections for journalists, US News reports. It’s alarming because by defining a journalist, itcuts out whole classes of people who deliver news the mainstream media doesn’t. It affords them no protections and they would not be able to function. Only the privileged few would survive.

Schumer wants to protect the press protecting their sources which is a worthy goal, but his bill “would limit these protections to those who fit the very narrow parameters of what Congress considers “the press.” These parameters focus on a reporter’s salary, employer and frequency of publication, and exclude those who don’t fit the traditional mold of a journalist”, according to US News.

US News contributor Jason Steverak writes:

Alarmingly, Schumer said the bill would “probably not [offer] enough protections” to cover Glenn Greenwald, the journalist for British daily the Guardian who first reported on the federal court order that required Verizon to turn over phone records to the NSA, and who also published sensitive documents leaked by Edward Snowden. (Greenwald now works for First Look Media.) This very scandal was a major motivating factor behind calls for a federal shield law, but the Senate has crafted a bill so ineffectual that it wouldn’t even protect the reporter at the center of the controversy.

Moreover, the Senate’s attempts to define journalism by place of employment miss the point entirely. Journalism isn’t a job but a service, and as the practices and tools of journalism shift with time, a journalist has to be defined by what they do, not where they work. A journalist observes, researches, gathers facts and presents these facts to his fellow citizens. Because these tasks can be performed by anyone at any level of society, almost any law that seeks to protect “journalists” will either be too inclusive and thus toothless, or will overlook non-credentialed citizens who nevertheless perform an essential service.

Instead of a toothless bill that puts up artificial separations among journalists, he should concentrate on journalistic activities, Mr. Stverak believes.

After the James Risen case, the government also considered a Shield Law that defined what a journalist is. Yet, it is the government that pursues these cases abusing journalistic freedoms.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin have long wanted to define who is a journalist and under what conditions the term applies.

They have suggested narrowing the definition of a journalist. They say it is because they want to protect those who write for free, but in effect, they would be offering protections only for those who fit their narrow definition, putting bloggers and citizen journalists at risk by not falling under the definition of a “journalist.” It could shut down blogs and everyone’s right to speak freely.


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