It appears U.S. Senate Democrats and the Islamic State have something in common. They both have introduced strict rules for the control of journalists and what is reported. In the first case is S. 987 Free Flow of Information Act of 2013 introduced by Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer. The second is a report by Syria Deeply on the Islamic States’ issuing strict rules for journalists. Both attempt to define who can and cannot report the news. Both provide punishments for non-compliance.
Journalists, like me, are constantly under attack for reporting the truth. Those public figures who are exposed strike back, many using the legal system to file frivolous lawsuits, to keep the truth from the public.
Both the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013 and the rules issued by the Islamic State take this one step further. The ideal is to control who is protected under the law as a journalist and who is not. This allows the state to control, via a central licensing authority, who will be permitted to report the truth and who will not. Who will be immune/protected from lawsuits and who will not. With the growth of the internet and citizen journalism this has become an issue for both the Islamic State and U.S. Senate Democrats like Diane Feinstein (D-CA).
Jessica Desvarieus, TRNN Producer on the Real News Network did an interview with David Greene, Senior Staff Attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Desvarieus began the interview with this statement:
Earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a federal media shield law called the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013 [S. 987] that provides legal protections for journalists. But some critics say that the legislation does not go far enough to protect independent journalists and it leaves too much room for judicial discretion and excludes whistleblowers, bloggers, and groups like WikiLeaks. [Emphasis added]
David Greene when asked about S. 987 said:
And it [S. 987] also tried to have in it what we call a functional definition, which would more broadly include those who were gathering news for the purposes of disseminating it to the general public. And that’s how it–and that was the 2007 bill. That was the starting point for this bill. What happened was before that bill [incompr.] committee senators, Senator Feinstein particularly, posed new language that would make it much more limited, that instead of defining covered persons, would actually try and define journalists and was really directed at covering only those persons who were either employed by a media entity or who had been employed with one for some steady period of time. And there were a few different formulas how you could qualify under that if you weren’t currently working for a media entity but had previously. [Emphasis added]
Now look at the eleven rules established by the Islamic State as reported by Syria Deeply:
- Correspondents must swear allegiance to the Caliph [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi … they are subjects of the Islamic State and, as subjects, they are obliged to swear loyalty to their imam.
- Their work will be under the exclusive supervision of the [ISIS] media offices.
- Journalists can work directly with international news agencies (such as Reuters, AFP and AP), but they are to avoid all international and local satellite TV channels. They are forbidden to provide any exclusive material or have any contact (sound or image) with them in any capacity.
- Journalists are forbidden to work in any way with the TV channels placed on the blacklist of channels that fight against Islamic countries (such as Al-Arabiya, Al Jazeera and Orient). Violators will be held accountable.
- Journalists are allowed to cover events in the governorate with either written or still images without having to refer back to the [ISIS] media office. All published pieces and photos must carry the journalist’s and photographer’s names.
- Journalists are not allowed to publish any reportage (print or broadcast) without referring to the [ISIS] media office first.
- Journalists may have their own social media accounts and blogs to disseminate news and pictures. However, the ISIS media office must have the addresses and name handles of these accounts and pages.
- Journalists must abide by the regulations when taking photos within [ISIS territory] and avoid filming locations or security events where taking pictures is prohibited.
- ISIS media offices will follow up on the work of local journalists within [ISIS territory] and in the state media. Any violation of the rules in place will lead to suspending the journalist from his work, and he will be held accountable.
- The rules are not final and are subject to change at any time depending on the circumstances and the degree of cooperation between journalists and their commitment to their brothers in the ISIS media offices.
- Journalists are given a license to practice their work after submitting a license request at the [ISIS] media office.
Note that Islamic State rules 3, 4, 7, and 11 are defining who a journalist is and only covers those working for certain media entities, much like language added to S. 987 by Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein.
The Obama administration is concerned about the truth getting out on issues such as: Fast & Furious, Benghazi, Obamacare, the NSA scandal, the IRS scandal and now the Ebola pandemic. S, 987, if ever passed, would allow this and any future administration to control journalism by narrowly defining it. Government transparency is the key.
Thomas Jefferson wrote:
“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”
It appears the party of Jefferson and the Islamic State prefer the former?