Enforcing ignorance by design

Agence France Presse reports:

The Pentagon has banned journalists with the popular defense daily Stars and Stripes from consulting leaked diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, prompting charges of censorship.

“The editorial independence of Stars and Stripes and its readers’ right to news free of censorship are being threatened by an overly broad and misdirected response to the Wikileaks debacle,” the daily wrote.
“Amazingly, the government wants to bar this newspaper’s journalists — along with most federal workers — from reading information already plastered all over the public square.”

In the article, the daily’s ombudsman Mark Prendergast revealed that the Pentagon communications department had advised that “access to any classified information hosted on non-DoD systems from any government-owned system is expressly prohibited” even if it was now in the public arena.

Although Stars and Stripes is officially authorized by the Pentagon it is editorially independent and its journalists are guaranteed the right of freedom of expression contained in the US Constitution.

Mark Prendergast writes:

Putting reporters and editors under strictures intended for keepers of the nation’s secrets contradicts the fundamental purpose of journalism: to seek information, not avoid it.

More pointedly, this action imperils the editorial independence and First Amendment freedoms that Congress demanded of the Pentagon for Stars and Stripes two decades ago and then acted to ensure by authorizing an ombudsman to provide “aggressive and objective oversight.”

Journalists are supposed to report before they write. That means gathering as much information as they can – in breadth and depth – and consulting primary sources whenever feasible.

That might mean an editor clicking on Wikileaks to verify information in a wire story. Or an art director doing a screen grab to illustrate that story. Or a reporter reading a document in full for context in assessing a statement about it.

This newspaper needs to report more, not less.

Yet the government is demanding the opposite – less reporting. That’s enforcing ignorance by design, and that’s not just troubling by journalism standards. It imperils the “free flow of news and information” promised to Stars and Stripes readers.

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2 thoughts on “Enforcing ignorance by design

  1. Norman

    Gosh, if the Government can’t use censorship, coercion, even detainment, then it won’t be able to loot the treasury, which we don’t need to describe, as it’s already out in the public domain. Talk about closing the barn door after the animals have taken flight, this action shows just how far behind the curve the present leaders are in their thinking. Let’s see, “can’t tell the forest from the trees”, “cutting ones nose off to spite ones face”, “the three monkey’s”, etc. The fight towards internet censorship makes sense now, as we have seen about how the M.S.M. has been neutered, now the Government will try & do it to the internet too. Just how long the American people will take this crap, is unknown, but I’d bet it won’t be long. The Government would be wise to back off, as those that sit in high places will be the first to feel the wrath when the public has had enough.

  2. Christopher Hoare

    The US is frightened of the truth. The US government is frightened of the truth of its own actions because they know that many of them are too shameful to meet the light of day. Every website on the internet should have a pop-up wikileak of US offenses against their own values every minute or so to rub their noses in it.

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