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Journalism on Life Support?

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Some of the greatest freedoms in this world are the freedom of speech and press.  Journalists serve a vital role in a democracy and are sometimes viewed (at least in the United States) as the “fourth branch” of the checks and balances system of government. Stifling speech and placing limits on the press is like dulling the teeth of a sprocket on a bicycle.  Slowly things start to go wrong.  The chain starts to slip and change gears unexpectedly.  The bike begins to lose control.  As the teeth become more dull, they lose all grip on the chain whatsoever, and it falls off completely.  The bike is now out of control and cannot be pedaled.

Since the Edward Snowden scandal erupted, some journalists have come under fire.  Glenn Greenwald, the journalist for the Guardian who met with Edward Snowden and broke the initial NSA Surveillance stories, has come under particular heat and scrutiny from both the UK and United States governments.  The Former Chief of the NSA has suggested Greenwald be labeled a “co-conspirator” and Congressman Peter King (R-NY) has openly claimed that Greenwald should be prosecuted.

This backlash did not deter Greenwald, who has continued to report on the atrocities that the NSA has subjected the unknowingly American people to.

The UK government, however, seems to have retaliated further, by detaining Greenwald’s partner (David Miranda).

David Miranda was held for nine hours under the UK’s controversial Terrorism Act. He was returning from Berlin, where the Guardian had paid for him to travel to both give and receive documents from Laura Poitras, who has been working with the paper and Greenwald on their continuing series of stories based on the leaks from Edward Snowden. Miranda was not allowed a lawyer during the time he was being held. Police confiscated his laptop and other electronic equipment, including the thumb drive with the documents from Poitras.

via: Huffington Post

Miranda was detained under a controversial provision of Britain’s Terrorism Act.  The Guardian explains:

Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act has been widely criticised for giving police broad powers under the guise of anti-terror legislation to stop and search individuals without prior authorisation or reasonable suspicion – setting it apart from other police powers.

Those stopped have no automatic right to legal advice and it is a criminal offence to refuse to co-operate with questioning under schedule 7, which critics say is a curtailment of the right to silence

As Greenwald pointed out in a statement made after his partner’s detention, this will only fuel the fire for him to keep pressing further with these stories.  And it should.  This should be a wake-up call to journalists, press, and media outlets.  The NSA surveillance programs were clearly meant to be kept secret.  The intelligence sectors of the US and UK cannot be trusted to inform citizens of the truth.  That is why there is a freedom of the press in the United States.  This tremendous power should continue to be utilized to inform the public.  Glenn Greenwald is doing a brave thing by reporting on such a controversial issue, but its his job.  He is a journalist, and he is doing what he is supposed to.

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