The First Amendment states, in part, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” However that was not able to stop the Alien and Sedition Acts from being passed in 1798 – which are still partially in effect today – the creation of the FCC to “regulate the airwaves” or even the prohibitions of journalists from taking cameras or voice recorders into a federal court building.
The claim by some is that these are “reasonable restrictions” and in no way intended to abridge the freedom of the press. After all, I’m able to publish a newspaper and multiple podcasts without getting a permission from any government entity. So freedom of the press must be alive and well in the United States, right?
Not exactly. Reporters Without Border ranks the United States at #43 of the 180 countries that were rated. North Korea was dead last, as many probably expected. What many in the US probably did not expect was for Norway, Sweden, Finland & Denmark to top the list with Netherlands rounding out the top 5. Probably more surprising is that Germany, Suriname, Canada, Czech Republic, Ghana, Cyprus, South Africa, France & the UK all rate ahead of the supposed “land of the free” in their Press Freedom Index.
And before you exclaim, “it’s better than in North Korea, Cuba and Russia”, remember that’s not the argument I’m making. When I say “it can be better here than it is,” I’m not saying the worst places – or perceived worst places – are better. If I order a steak cooked medium-rare, and it’s served well-done, the proper response is not, “well it’s still better than eating out of a dumpster!” But I digress.
There are no footnotes to the First Amendment stating that it only applies to specific people or groups; however the Department of Justice decided in September to order “Russia’s RT television news network to register itself as a ‘foreign agent,’ forcing it to make broad disclosures on contacts within the United States.” According to AntiWar.com, “This registration is an idea that had long been pushed by Congressional Democrats who accuse RT of being a ‘propaganda’ network. The Foreign Agent Registration Act was meant to target foreign lobbyists and politicians” not its media.
Interestingly some of the supposed propaganda being cited as evidence of Russian interference in the Presidential election can be found in a 25 page report from the FBI’s Director of National Intelligence which states on page 6 of Annex A, “In an effort to highlight the alleged ‘lack of democracy’ in the United States, RT broadcast, hosted, and advertised third-party candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates. The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham.’”
You read that right, the FBI claims that hosting a debate with presidential candidates who aren’t part of the Duopoly is propaganda. Does the FBI fear a well-informed populace? If so, why?
The solution here is not to restrict freedom of the press, but rather to encourage more of it in hopes that the corrupt will be exposed for their attempts to stifle dissenting opinions.