by Terry Schilling
This article is part of a series focusing on Lens of Liberty, a project of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation.
In her Liberty Minute titled “The People Rule,” Helen Krieble exposes a blatant attack on the First Amendment right of a free press:
[In 2013], the Federal Communications Commission issued a proposal to place government monitors in newsrooms around the country, supposedly to monitor news coverage and study why reporters choose to cover certain stories and not others. The public reaction was fierce and immediate. People across the country looked through the lens of liberty and realized what a terrible threat to freedom that was.
An independent and free press is one of America’s first freedoms because the people have a right to know what their government is up to. Americans don’t believe in censorship, and even the smallest hint of government control of the free press had to be resisted immediately. That is exactly what happened—the FCC was forced to withdraw the plan. That proves once again the power of public opinion in a democratic-republic—that in America the people still rule.
The American people must be diligent in fighting off all attempts to circumvent guaranteed Constitutional rights. The free press should not be limited in any way, lest it become a propaganda machine.
The fact that a government agency would seek to monitor the press suggests that not everyone holds the First Amendment in a similar high regard. Indeed, it seems likely that at least some of America’s political elites would like the ability to control the narrative in a way that suits them. One recent and frightening example of this comes from one of the biggest political organizations in the country.
Last month, the Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit against the Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, and the Russian government for conspiracy to elect Donald Trump as President in 2016. One of the most troublesome parts of the suit is that WikiLeaks is included, specifically for their role in publishing hacked DNC correspondence. Assuming WikiLeaks was not involved in the hacking itself, it is highly hypocritical for the DNC to attack them legally for something that might otherwise be considered intrepid journalism if the object were different. For instance, the DNC did not seem to have a problem with The New York Times reporting on President Trump’s tax records that were similarly leaked to the press.
Currently, there is no evidence that WikiLeaks illegally acquired the correspondence — they simply reported on information they were given. If the DNC is successful in this lawsuit, some fear that it could result in a chilling effect, discouraging other news organizations from reporting on leaked documents.
Those involved with the lawsuit should be aware of the harm it could do to a free and independent press. Once the right to report on such information is taken away, there is no telling what next steps might be taken to control the media and shape the narrative. If Americans look through the “lens of liberty,” they will clearly see that limitations on the press such as these are dangerous to our freedom.