The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the New York-based press freedom body, has launched a petition today calling on President Obama’s administration to respect journalists’ right to gather and report news.
The petition, “Right to report in the digital age”, makes three key demands of the US government:
It should prohibit the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organisations; it must limit prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers; and it must halt the harassment of journalists at the US border.
In its preamble to the petition, the CPJ argues that incidents of surveillance, intimidation and exploitation of the press “have raised unsettling questions about whether the US and other western democracies risk undermining journalists’ ability to report in the digital age.”
These incidents have also given ammunition to “repressive governments seeking to tighten restrictions on media and the internet.”
It points out that “the most chilling reports based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden are those suggesting US and allied intelligence agencies targeted news organisations, journalists, and human rights groups for surveillance.” It states:
“If journalists cannot communicate in confidence with sources, they cannot do their jobs. The free flow of information and the right of journalists to do their jobs in the digital age must be protected.”
I have signed, and among the signatories are Christiane Amanpour of CNN, Kathleen Carroll, executive editor and senior vice president of the Associated Press, Arianna Huffington, Jana Winter, a reporter with Fox News, Jacob Weisberg editor-in-chief of Slate, and Sarah Clarke, Pen International’s London-based policy and advocacy officer.
Two others who have signed are Laura Poitras, who helped in the release of the NSA documents that were leaked by Snowden, and Daniel Ellsberg, responsible for the 1971 release of the Pentagon Papers.
Organisations supporting the petition include Bloomberg News, Getty Images, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.