August 2, 2005


I was just mulling over the past year or so. Let’s see … TV investigative reporter Jim Taricani under house arrest for refusing to disclose a source of a videotape. A harsh sanction imposed against the Boston Globe for refusing to disclose a reporter’s source during discovery in a defamation action was upheld by Massachusetts’s highest court, resulting in a seven-figure judgment against the paper. Times reporter Judith Miller sits in jail for refusing to disclose her source of information concerning the Valerie Plame leak—even though Miller never published a story on the topic. Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper got a last-minute get out of jail free card from his source, and Time bit the bottom-line-bullet and disclosed information sought by a special prosecutor rather than subject itself to likely substantial monetary sanctions. A federal appeals court upholds contempt findings against four prominent journalists (Jeff Gerth and James Risen of The Times, Josef Hebert of the AP, Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times, and former CNN reporter Pierre Thomas) for refusing to reveal their sources when questioned in depositions in Wen Ho Lee’s privacy act suit against the government. The Cleveland Plain Dealer sits on two stories, of “profound importance,” based upon illegally leaked (but presumably legally obtained) documents due to fear of Miller-like reprisals if it refuses to reveal its sources (one of which it then published after it was outed by another media outlet.) Oh, and let's toss in a prior restraint or two, and a few ill-fated FOIA requests.

Then I read something I’m excerpting here:

The Constitution states that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are fundamental rights to be enjoyed by all citizens; however, the Government tightly restricted these rights in practice. … The Government continued to threaten, arrest, and imprison many individuals for exercising free speech. … A wave of detentions late in the year appeared to signal a new campaign against writers. … Formal and informal guidelines continued to require journalists to avoid coverage of many politically sensitive topics. These public orders, guidelines, and statutes greatly restricted the freedom of broadcast journalists and newspapers to report the news and led to a high degree of self-censorship. … Journalists who reported on topics that met with the Government's or local authorities' disapproval continued to suffer harassment, detention, and imprisonment. … In September, [a] New York Times employee … was detained and later formally charged with leaking state secrets shortly after the newspaper published an article … . A wave of detentions late in the year appeared to signal a new campaign targeting writers, political commentators, and academics. … In addition to criminal prosecution of writers, some government officials used civil lawsuits to block controversial writings. ... During the year, journalists and editors who exposed corruption scandals frequently faced problems with the authorities, and the Government continued to close publications and punish journalists for printing material deemed too sensitive. … Some citizens continued to speak out and publish on controversial topics, despite the Government's restrictions on freedom of speech and the press.

Scary, isn’t it? For the full version, read the State Department's February 2005 Country Report on Human Rights. About ... China!

Yup ... me, too.

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