Paul Steiger: Obama administration’s actions threaten U.S. journalists

In an important speech on press freedoms this week, ProPublica founder Paul Steiger warned that the Obama administration’s surveillance of reporters, denial of access and efforts to silence sources constitute an assault on American journalists’ ability to do their jobs.

Speaking Tuesday night after receiving the Burton Benjamin Memorial award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, Steiger said in a speech posted on ProPublica that new barriers to reporters have emerged :

For the starkest comparison, I urge any of you who haven’t already done so to read last month’s report, commissioned by CPJ and written by Len Downie, former editor of the Washington Post. It lays out in chilling detail how an administration that took office promising to be the most transparent in history instead has carried out the most intrusive surveillance of reporters ever attempted.

It also has made the most concerted effort at least since the plumbers and the enemies lists of the Nixon Administration to intimidate officials in Washington from ever talking to a reporter.

Steiger observed American reporters still have it far better than journalists in Latin America, Asia and Africa who regularly face beatings, jailings and killings. But conditions are changing for American journalists, he said. Beyond the industry’s financial challenges, reporters are encountering more obstacles doing their work:

Consider this:  As we now know from the [Edward] Snowden documents, investigators seeking to trace the source of a leak can go back and discover anyone in government who has talked by phone or email with the reporter who broke the story. Match that against the list of all who had access to the leaked info and voila!

Steiger further noted the stricter access to Obama and White House events that recently prompted media organizations to send a letter of protest to spokesman Jay Carney.

The Obama administration is not always hostile to journalists, he said, noting it “ostensibly agreed not to prosecute anyone for engaging in journalism.” But he agreed with CPJ chairman Sandra Mims Rowe’s call for more protests against excessive government secrecy in the U.S., adding:

If we are going to be credible admonishing abusers of journalists abroad, we can’t stand silent when it is going on at home.

Related: McClatchy updates policy on handout photos: ‘it’s important to take a stance’ | USA Today won’t publish handout photos from White House | White House press complain about access to president | The dangerous delusions of the White House press corps and the president | White House beat is ‘only stenography if you choose it to be’ | White House uses embargoes as yet another way to drive reporters crazy

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  • paulharrington

    The “unbiased” american media deserve what they get from the current regime in the White House. They have been carry his water and kissing his ass since his day in Chicago. If they had put half the effort in covering Obama as they did to the republicans he might not have been elected.