How far should freedom of the press extend?
Robert D. Kaplan has a superb article at the Policy Review Online entitled “The Media and Medievalism“.
Kaplan’s article is an erudite analysis of the power of modern media.
the blog Silent Running in its posting “Wretchard Is Right” writes:
“This is truly a magnificent essay. In fact, if there is one thing you should read this month, if not this year (that is at it’s end, anyway), this should be it.”
Kaplan’s article easily serves as a basis for argument to limit the freedom of the press: for example, in cases where lives have been endangered or are in danger of being endangered. This is a current legal issue in the Plame case. See e.g. Steven Chapman at the Chicago Tribune in “Why the press is wrong about the Valerie Plame case” (registration required), where Chapman writes:
“Unmasking covert operatives is serious business, with potential life-and-death consequences. It’s also a felony under federal law.”
The 1st Amendment free speech protection was never intended to cover reporters who essentially are doing the publication dirty work for felons and hiding behind journalistic privilege to enable what otherwise is illegal.
Volokh addresses the questions:
“Should there be a journalist’s privilege? What should its scope be? And who exactly qualifies as a journalist?”. Read the article for his analysis, especially as it applies to blogging and bloggers. Are we also entitled to some kind of journalistic privilege? Logically, yes. Practically, questionable. If bloggers are “journalists”, then everyone is (potentially) a journalist. This is a logic which speaks against giving ANYONE special privileges.
We agree with Volokh’s statement concerning journalistic privilege that:
“Communications that facilitate crime or fraud, for example, are not protected.”
And that seems to us to be the case in the Plame case where the “leak” of a covert operative’s identity is a material element of the crime itself.