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EDITORIAL: DOJ pushing too far on freedom of press

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A journalist’s job, in the simplest definition, is to ask questions and report the facts they discover from that information. Not all of the questions reporters ask day in and day out are popular ones. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say our job is quite possibly one of the most disliked. However, love us or hate us, we cannot imagine that most people would agree with the recent actions of the Department of Justice and the Obama administration.

Last week, it was revealed that not only did the DOJ investigate Fox News reporter James Rosen after his 2009 article about North Korea’s nuclear testing, but they labeled him a “co-conspirator” to leaking government information.

According to an article published by the New York Times May 20, Rosen “quoted a source who described missile activity in North Korea, but Mr. Rosen said he was withholding some details ‘to avoid compromising sensitive overseas operations.’ The Justice Department subsequently investigated the leak and indicted a government adviser, Stephen Jin-Woo Kim …. The government used records tracking Mr. Rosen’s use of his security badge at the State Department, apparently trying to establish his connection to Mr. Kim.”

While Rosen hasn’t been formally charged with anything, federal prosecutors slapped the term “co-conspirator” on him so a federal judge could grant them permission to investigate his actions as well. This gave the government access to his personal e-mails for at least 30 days. The FBI also gathered phone records associated with White House staffers and Fox News as a part of this case, the Times reported.

What’s even more chilling is that this information was made public after news last week from the Associated Press that the government also secretly seized the phone records of that agency’s staff; two months’ worth.

A trend seems to be forming and it’s one we believe needs to be addressed immediately. Politicians and the Justice Department want to point to the security of the country as reasons to impede on freedom of the press. But really these two cases are only examples of the government overzealously going after journalists who are simply doing their jobs by asking questions and gathering facts.

Yes, there needs to be a line drawn to help keep a balance between protecting our country and protecting our first amendment rights. Labeling a reporter a “co-conspirator” to get to his source upsets that balance.

The current administration is calling these cases efforts to cut down on leaked information, but we wonder how these leaks can be stopped by threatening reporters.

“The administration’s draconian crackdown on disclosures of information to the media was already unprecedented. Now, it has crossed over a sacred line,” Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, told Salon, an online media site.

We agree with Goitein. Freedom of the press is a very sacred right in our country. To continue in this trend, threatening and labeling reporters to possibly persecute them for their work, would be detrimental to our nation. We urge the DOJ and the Obama administration to stop attacking journalists and let us continue to do our jobs: informing the American public about the issues that are important to them.

Our view: Editorials reflect the opinions of the newspaper.

Your view: Tell us what you think. E-mail us at editor@perrycountynews.com or mail your comments to P.O. Box 309, Tell City, IN 47586.