by Ronn Torossian
Given the fact that Barack Obama has been one of the most liberal Presidents in recent American history, his constant attacks and pressure on journalists should be even more disconcerting to freedom loving people – in America, and worldwide.
This issue reared its ugly head publicly again today during an interview on Fox News with Investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who quit CBS News last month, seemingly as the result of her inability to do her job due to “pressures.” The interview focused upon her comments that the Obama administration has had a “chilling effect” on news organizations, and places tremendous pressure upon journalists not to run stories which they don’t approve of. Attkisson claimed, “There is pressure coming to bear on journalists for just doing their job in ways that have never come to bear before.” “But it is particularly aggressive under the Obama administration, and I think it’s a campaign that’s very well organized, that’s designed to have sort of a chilling effect and to some degree has been somewhat successful in getting broadcast producers who don’t really want to deal with the headache of it.” Amazing.
In context, after pressure a few weeks ago, the Obama Administration dropped plans to monitor newsrooms across America. As was reported in The Wall Street Journal, ”Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its ‘Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,’ or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run.” Obama’s America – talk of monitoring newsrooms.
In this administration, journalists at The Associated Press have had their phone records pulled as the government secretly subpoenaed and seized records for telephone lines and switchboards used by more than 100 AP reporters in its Washington bureau and elsewhere. This included work and personal phone lines of multiple reporters, thousands of newsgathering calls on a wide variety of issues. Individual reporters from Fox News have been tracked – and that is just what we know about.
Six government employees have faced felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act for leaking classified information to the press, compared with just three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. Given the fact that the IRS mis-used its power against conservatives, who knows what else has been done against journalists during the Obama Administration? The Obama administration, which is collecting the phone records of millions of Americans, has published an enemies list – which is political enemies who are all Americans. Where is the media and those who often speak out about the violation of civil liberties?
I, Ronn Torossian, and many others ask: Is it permissible for the Obama Administration to squelch media opposition?
Last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international media watchdog organization, issued its first report on press freedom in the United States, and in their report, titled “The Obama Administration and the Press,” they report that President Obama has ushered in a paralyzing climate of fear for media. The report contented that media is being severely pressured, and David Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times said “This is the most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered.”
The CPJ report said “The administration’s war on leaks to the press though the use of secret subpoenas against news organizations, its assertion through prosecution that leaking classified documents to the press is espionage or aiding the enemy; and its increased limitations on access to information that is in the public interest – all thwart a free and open discussion necessary to a democracy.” As they said, “If we consider aggressive press coverage of government activities [as] being at the core of American democracy, this tips the balance heavily in favor of the government.”
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote that the Obama era is “turning out to be the administration of unprecedented secrecy and unprecedented attacks on a free press.”
Those of us who work in public relations and in the communications industry must stand up and ensure that freedom and liberty are able to thrive in the great United States of America.
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