Thursday, December 31, 2009

Who is a Journalist?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is so concerned about its internal security that it sent out investigators to the homes of two bloggers who spilled the beans about Transportation Security Agency (TSA) plans for the imposition of idiotic in-flight rules as a result of the Underwear Bomber incident. Fox News reports how the two bloggers were treated. DHS Subpoena's Two Journalists DHS/TSA alleges the two are not journalists and therefore do not deserve the same 1st Amendment protections afforded journalists. The Watchman did a little research and found a web site reporting on a recent court ruling that clearly establishes bloggers as journalist.

What is disconcerting about this episode is DHS/TSA's heavy handed approach and their concern about embarrassing leaks, when they should be figuring out how to win the war against terrorism. Interesting too, DHS, headed by a Democratic Obama appointee is aggressively seeking out to find who leaked the unclassified TSA document. Under the Bush administration SECRET CIA/FBI documents were leaked to the New York Times and published on page one! At the time Democrats heralded the disclosure as an act of patriotism.

However I digress. The importance of this incident will be played out in the courts again and hopefully the earlier ruling noted above will withstand judicial review. This is important for every citizen and especially every blogger. If the common everyday blogger who reports on activities of their community to international events is not viewed legally as a journalist, then the 1st Amendment is meaningless. Remember, several of our founding fathers were not journalist, yet they produced pamphlets, newsletters, handbills, and speeches that gave birth to our nation. Without a broad definition of who a journalist is or what journalism really is all about, then the State could begin regulating journalist content and only State approved content could be published. Note in the Fox News report the blogger's comments about how they felt intimidated and fearful.

The Watchman isn't advocating irresponsible reporting by bloggers and other communicators acting in a journalistic manner. However, bottom line is these individuals do deserve the same legal protections as other professional journalists. Stay tuned to how this story unfolds. It may raise a red flag on things to come.

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