One “Meet the Press” David Gregory had the opportunity to interview the investigative journalist who broke the NSA snooping story to the world, Glenn Greenwald. Since Greenwald’s denouncement of the NSA program for the Guardian, he and his informant, Edward Snowden, have been the conversation on everyone’s lips. Both men have been lauded and reviled in the national media, but Greenwald probably did not expect to have to defend himself to fellow journalist David Gregory.
During Sunday’s interview, Gregory, seemingly trying to play Devil’s advocate asked: “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?”
It was a remarkable moment seeing one respected journalist essentially join the Obama administration and argue that this other journalist had done something wrong by uncovering the unconstitutional goings-on at the NSA. Greenwald, obviously offended, responded that Gregory had embraced the Obama administrations talking points and that “it means that every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information is a criminal…”
Gregory retorted, “Who is a journalist may be up to a debate…”
Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 23, 2013
There is a greater problem here that neither Greenwald nor Gregory acknowledges, and that is the broader implications of Gregory’s question. Quite obviously Greenwald has considered what this attack on journalism means for journalists… but has he thought through the ramifications it could have on free speech in general? The Constitution lists freedom of the press and freedom of speech as two of our God given rights, but it does not separate for us who are journalists and who are not.
More specifically, does an amateur writer have less right to speech than a famous Pulitzer Prize winner from an important paper of record like the Guardian? Or, is the amateur guaranteed the same freedom of speech as the journalist?
I would argue that if professional journalists are given special free speech rights that it, in effect, waters down the general right to free speech. A “media shield” law doesn’t just ensure the rights of the media, but announces to the average citizen that we have “limited” freedom of speech. “Media shield” laws may seem like a good thing, but in fact they are simply another attack on free speech.
It’s an important question, and any answer we arrive at will have serious implications for all Americans.
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