America’s freedom of the press was a beacon of light, the shining example the rest of the world aspired to attain. In recent years, America has slipped to a tie for 24th place with the Czech Republic, according to Freedom House.
What has changed in America? Has the war on terror taken a toll on First Amendment freedoms, or is it more complicated?
Craig Aaron and Josh Stearns raised this precise issue in their article “Is America Still a Beacon for Press Freedom?” in The Huffington Post, October 27, 2008. An issue brought to light is media consolidation. Media consolidation, according to Aaron and Stearns, is in direct conflict with press freedom. The fewer news sources, the more profit driven the industry gets, the more press freedom suffers.
The Society of Professional Journalists released a statement about the restrictions by BP and The Department of Homeland Security in coverage of the Gulf oil disaster.
Videos of illegal arrests of journalist are prevalent on YouTube, like this arrest of a reporter for ABC affiliate KVIA:
This is the arrest of Amy Goodman in St. Paul, Minn during the Republican National Convention:
In the 2009 poll, by the First Amendment Center, 39 percent of Americans say the press “has too much freedom to do what it wants,” an increase over the last few years.
A shield law would protect journalists from prosecution for keeping their sources confidential. Would a shield law be enough to reverse the current course of eroding press freedoms? Do we need to educate the public better about why freedom of the press is crucial? What role do journalists take in the current attitudes?