Democracies foster a never-ending struggle between two rights: The government's
obligation to protect national security; and the people's right to know, based
on journalists' ability to access information. Governments sometimes need to
limit access to information considered too sensitive for general distribution.
But journalists in democracies are fully justified in pursuing such
Some members and friends of the Bush administration are proclaiming their outrage at the NY Times' recent story on the Bush Administration's program to monitor and track financial records - in the name of combating terrorism. Some have actually suggested the NY Times should be prosecuted for treason. And of course, the news-talk shows on CNN (and other stations) have jumped right in for a feeding frenzy.
For a lark, I caught Hardball on CCN which featured a debate (so-called) on this topic between Rev. Al Sharpton and Melanie Morgan, neither of whom impresss me. These two put on a quite a show - yelling at one another and calling each other names, and spouting off dogma, spin, sweeping generalities, and cliches. What a hoot!
And what a pity.
Because this issue calls for a serious discussion - not a staged show.
What's really on the table here is freedom of the press.
And the Bush administration has been exceptionally hostile to the press and to civil liberties.
Americans, be ware!
We are treading on dangerous ground here. We've seen the erosion of civil liberties over the past several years, and we've watched the press ignore its responsibility to ask tough questions and raise serious issues. And we've watched this current administration hide as much information as it can and take as much power as it can, all in the name of patriotism - in the guise of defending Americans against terrorists.
We are losing some of the principles which conservatives tell us are the very principles for which the terrorists hate us. So who is really winning this so-called war - this clash of ideology?
Before we lose any more - let's slow down and demand that our nation (that means our elected officials, our media, and us - WE THE PEOPLE) engage in a considered, intelligent, respectful discussion of what constitutes a free press in a democratic society.
Americans be ware! We are on the brink of losing more than we realize.