Journalists risk their lives traveling to some of the most dangerous places in the world to bring us information about current events. We were reminded of how dangerous this work can be with the executions of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff by the militant group Islamic State. Journalists have a right to gather and report the news to the public and the U.S. government should do everything in its power to protect, not erode, those rights — Committee to Protect Journalists
But that’s not what’s happening. Reports based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden suggest that the U.S. and allied intelligence agencies have targeted news organizations, journalists, and human rights groups for surveillance. When journalists believe they might be targeted by government hackers, pulled into a criminal investigation, or searched and interrogated about their work, their ability to inform the public erodes.
The Obama Administration can protect the right of journalists by taking these steps:
- Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organisations
- Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers
- Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border
If journalists cannot communicate in confidence with sources, they cannot do their jobs. Surveillance, intimidation, and exploitation of the press have raised unsettling questions about whether the U.S. and other Western democracies risk undermining journalists’ ability to report in the digital age. They also give ammunition to repressive governments seeking to tighten restrictions on media and the Internet.