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Mirror of Justice
“The Free Flow of Information Act of 2007” purports to defend the Bill of Rights, in particular the First Amendment freedom of the press. Compare and contrast the original language of HR 2102IH as originally written, with HR 2102EH as passed by the House.
As originally submitted:
(2) COVERED PERSON- The term `covered person' means a person engaged in journalism and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.
...(5) JOURNALISM- The term `journalism' means the gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public.
So far, so good. One can certainly debate the desirability or wisdom of legally protecting sources, and shielding from prosecution journalists who protect their sources. There are arguments going both ways, and they can quite reasonably be characterized as falling under the "freedom of the press" clause of the First Amendment. As Mike Pence (R-IN) is quoted doing by WaPo, one of the major lobbying forces for this bill:
"What's a conservative like me doing passing legislation that would help reporters?" Pence, a former talk-radio host, asked in remarks on the floor. "As a conservative who believes in limited government, I believe the only check on government in real time is the freedom of the press.
"Without the promise of confidentiality, many important conduits of information about our government will be shut down," he said, adding that the bill would "put a stitch in what I believe is a tear in the fabric of the Bill of Rights."
Too bad the language that passed the House does nothing for the Bill of Rights or the First Amendment. You see, in the process of moving through the House, the definition of a "covered person" changed a little. Note the emphasis:
(2) COVERED PERSON- The term `covered person' means a person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person's livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.
You're not covered under this bill unless you're a regularly employed paid professional journalist! This completely removes the argument that this bill has anything at all to do with the First Amendment's "freedom of the press."
Why? Because the First Amendment's "freedom of the press" is a right of the people. You and I have just as much right to exercise "freedom of the press" as any seven-figure-salary MSM reporter. The House, in passing this bill, is not protecting the Bill of Rights at all. It's establishing a professional class privilege in the law, one not found in the Bill of Rights, one that exempts that professional class from the civic duties of citizenship. One that places them above the law in certain respects.
It's not a "freedom of the press" bill anymore. It's become a monopoly protection act that establishes an exclusively privileged class of "paid journalists." If it were to apply to "the press" as understood in the Constitution, that is to say everyone, that would be a different story. But it doesn't.
UPDATE: the current thread on David Hazinski's self-serving blather about "monitoring and regulating" us "non-professionals" is HERE, replete with fresh snark and additional linkage. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds and Mickey Kaus and Bill Quick for the linkage! Now give your Senators a shout and let them know what you think about it.