Tuesday, July 30, 2013

British, French Media Watchdogs Blow Whistle on US



US Army private, Bradley Manning was convicted on July 30 on multiple counts for leaking material related to US national security but acquitted of the charge of aiding the enemy. A few days prior to the verdict, two European organisations that monitor freedom of speech, expressed misgivings about the protection afforded by the US to whistleblowers like Manning and Edward Snowden. Snowden is accused of exposing details of US projects to collect telephone and electronic communication data.

“We are concerned that the US Government is not only unwilling to protect whistleblowers who reveal serious wrongdoings in the public interest, but instead actually pursues them. As a result, its commitment to openness, freedom of information and democratic governance is open to question,” said the UK-based ARTICLE 19 in a statement published July 27.

“ARTICLE 19 deeply regrets the US Government’s knee jerk reaction to such disclosures, consisting in bringing criminal charges against the alleged whistleblowers, instead of properly assessing the overall public interest of the disclosed information or addressing the wrongdoings they may have exposed.”

Meanwhile, on July 29, Reporters without Borders (RSF) expressed “concern” about the recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that New York Times journalist James Risen testify at the trial of a CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling who is accused of leaking unauthorised information. Risen used the information in his book ‘State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,’ published in 2006.

“Leaks are the lifeblood of investigative journalism,” said RSF, “given that nearly all information related to national security is considered ‘secret’ and that the DOJ has argued in the past that reporter’s privilege does not exist at all for national security reporters, it is safe to say that this crackdown against whistleblowers is designed to restrict all but officially approved versions of events and information. These developments highlight the need for a comprehensive, federal shield law in the U.S.”

RSF however expressed guarded approval of the Department of Justice guidelines issued in mid-July following the controversy caused by the US Government seizing phone records of the Associated Press and issuing a warrant on Fox News' James Rosen.

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