In the wake of the Department of Justice’s assault on the media embodied by their illegal vacuuming up of the phone records at the Associated Press (AP) and their investigation into Fox News reporter James Rosen, several lawmakers advanced the notion that we needed a media shield law. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) has proposed new legislation that would protect any “salaried agent” of a media company. That means to actually “count” as a journalist, a person would need to be a full time salaried employee of a reputable news agency, like the New York Times, Washington Post, or CNN.
Seems reasonable, no? Professional reporters get protected from too much government oversight, freeing them to report the news to us unfettered from government involvement.
It’s not reasonable though, because the media already has an almost absolute protection from the government guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution in the Bill of Rights.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The scripting a law that guarantees the media certain protection from government intervention is simply overkill. The fact that we are even discussing a media shield law uncovers an even more sinister truth.
Simply needing to debate the need for media shield laws is a tacit admission that the government doesn’t care about our Constitutional rights. If the government wasn’t abusing those rights already, a media shield law would never need to be considered. So the real answer to the problem that necessitates a shield law is that we must rein in our overbearing government.
There is more to be concerned about when we are discussing the creation of a media shield law. Any media shield law would legally give those in the media “more” of a First Amendment freedom than your average American citizen… simply because of the profession they chose. Does that seem like “free speech” to you? Your neighbor who works for CNN will have more of a legal “right” to free speech simply because of their place of employment.
It’s not okay.
Each and every American citizen is guaranteed their right to free speech in almost absolute terms, so long as they are not infringing on the rights of others. We have allowed the Supreme Court and our federal government to whittle away at this right over the years, and now we must make a stand and say, “Enough.” No more chipping away at the First Amendment. The government has no right to suppress the media, or to limit free speech. It’s time they realized that. The media shield law is a trap fellow conservatives; let’s not fall in.
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