Senator Not Sure Bloggers Deserve Free Speech Rights

J.P. Hicks
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Who knew the speech of the media and bloggers wasn't already protected?

The U.S. senate is working on a media shield law that would protect the media against government retaliation for exposing sensitive information.

I thought the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights made it quite clear that all speech was already protected: 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Since the government has been on the rampage to punish whistleblowers who exposed government crimes perhaps additional clarity is needed.  However, it seems that the politicians are using the media shield law to decide who gets free speech protection and who doesn't.

The shield law is legislation would protect reporters' privilege, or the right of news reporters to refuse to testify as to information or sources of information obtained during the news gathering and dissemination process.

Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who is the leading GOP sponsor of the media shield law, made some disturbing statements that the law may not include bloggers. In doing so, he clearly shows his disdain for bloggers.

"You can sit in your mother’s basement and chat away, I don't care. But when you start talking about classified programs, that’s when it gets to be important," he said during a Free Times interview. "So, if classified information is leaked out on a personal website or [by] some blogger, do they have the same First Amendments rights as somebody who gets paid [in] traditional journalism?"

"Who is a journalist is a question we need to ask ourselves," Graham told reporters Wednesday. "Is any blogger out there saying anything—do they deserve First Amendment protection? These are the issues of our times."

Bloggers have been excluded from state shield laws in the past.  In 2011, an Oregon court ruled that an investigative blogger was not eligible for shield law protections because she wasn't a "journalist".  

"Although defendant is a self-proclaimed 'investigative blogger' and defines herself as 'media,' the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system," the judge wrote. "Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the [Oregon journalist shield] law."

In the same light, bloggers have also been prosecuted for posting health advice without a government recognized license:

As the government draws scorn for prosecuting Private Bradley Manning to the fullest extent of the law for alleged leaking of classified information and the DOJ spying on the Associated Press and other news organizations, this media shield law is gaining a groundswell of bipartisan support.

Yet if this legislation is used to determine who is permitted, licensed or authorized to talk about "classified" programs and who isn't, it will likely do more harm to free speech than it protects.

Cynical, I know. But Graham is no stranger to destroying the rights of U.S. citizens.

Graham aggressively advocated for the destruction of due process for American citizens during the 2012 NDAA debate. He told people suspected of having ties to terrorism to "Shut up. You don't get a lawyer."  Sadly, Congress voted with Graham, so suspicion now equals guilt and indefinite detention without trial in America.

Graham said of the Boston bombing suspect, "The last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights." He applauded martial law tactics to hunt down the suspect and only wished there'd been a drone in the sky. He also said judicial oversight of targeted drone killings would be "the worst thing in the world."

I only point out Graham's recent history to illustrate that he isn't exactly the lawmaker I'd trust to protect the anyone's rights. And if Graham's attitude toward bloggers is any indication, bloggers' speech will not be protected in the same way that a "authorized" journalist would be.

Government transparency is as just vital to a thriving democracy as an independent media. I have a strong suspicion that this media shield law will lessen both transparency and independence. 

It will likely give the government more control over the flow of information through a more entrenched corporate media, while simultaneously forcing small bloggers to join larger organizations to gain this "protection" but lose their independence.

If bloggers don't demand the same protections as all journalists, they're not likely to get them.  All bloggers should contact their representatives to demand that they "deserve" free speech protections just like all Americans should.

J.P. Hicks is an entrepreneur, info-activist, pro blogger, editor of and author of Secrets to Making Money with a Free Blog. Follow @ Twitter, or like on Facebook.

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10 Respones to "Senator Not Sure Bloggers Deserve Free Speech Rights"

Anonymous said...

When the government makes things classified just to cover up their
f***-ups, their secret domestic agendas, their over spending, and all
the papers they dont want congress to get their hands on, etc.
Hardly any one trusts our government anyway ask "Do you trust our
government"? Be lucky to get 10% yes.

June 6, 2013 at 2:55 PM
Anonymous said...

It seems a key point has been missed. The ruling about a blogger states, without stating: Only, ONLY, people who are EMPLOYED, that is receiving some form of compensation are entitled to the protection given by the constitution. Your job protects you, as a private person with an opinion, you are worthless (no compensation) and do not deserve the protection given by the Constitution. Had Manning been employed by The Times, he'd be free, as the release of information was due to the course of his EMPLOYMENT, the fact that he was a soldier is his problem.

It is all about where your check comes from.

June 6, 2013 at 3:16 PM
Anonymous said...

I'm not sure senators should have free speech rights. Every time one opens his mouth, something gets worse for the people.

June 6, 2013 at 5:42 PM
Anonymous said...

I am so happy to read this because maybe now the nation and ESPECIALLY our fellow Americans in South Caroline, will stop voting this NIT WIT back into office. PLEASE, South Carolinans, this man doesn't understand what nation he's supposed to be serving.

June 6, 2013 at 6:42 PM
Anonymous said...

I guess I'm not sure anymore if congressmen deserve the frank. Think that makes us even?

June 6, 2013 at 8:13 PM
Anonymous said...

Americans have largely become WORTHLESS, when it comes to protecting their precious rights, given to them by their forefathers and founders of this country. Why do I say this? Because Lindsay Graham should already be recalled. He's a joke. He doesn't represent Americans in any way shape or form. He does represent the best interests of foreign nationals and the elite that line his pockets. God folks, wake up...and,no I'm not a liberal I'ma conservative, that's my problem. Graham is no doubt, just fine with the left.

June 6, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Anonymous said...

Lindsey Graham is a closet homosexual who knows the Jewish media will out him if he doesn't do their bidding for them. Grab guns and erode free speech just in time for the JEW WORLD ORDER.

June 6, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Anonymous said...

Makes me wonder why Americans bother to vote anymore. It's not their vote that decides who the next Prez will be, but the banksters and their riged 'voting' system.

June 7, 2013 at 1:25 AM
Anonymous said...

I will gladly accept his opinion against the oath he took to uphold the constitution as his resignation speech.

The corporate person has been immune from "the law" for far too long. We all have our rights at all times even while under a corporate paycheck. That really seems to be the test of constitutional understandings. How far are your rights valued. Sure call the boss an a-hole if it is true that s/he is one, it is your right.

A few simple propaganda twists like that have enabled then to erode the rest of our rights with your help. They couldn't do it without your help. Prohibition of any intoxicant is another litmus test, which many of you will fail in your support in those illegal laws. Our ninth amendment, among other parts of our Nations founding document demands that all prohibitions against any intoxicant stop.


June 7, 2013 at 11:18 PM
JP Hicks said...

Thanks for your comments. You're all right, why would we expect the most powerful democracy to respect free speech? How far has America fallen to even consider something like this? Sad.

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