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March 10, 2007

Comments

Fred Smith

I absolutely agree. A recent analysis by the Washington Post admitted, as it had to, that this case shows that journalists are sometime's vulnerable to government manipulation. However, as you point out this is hardly an argument for eliminating protection of journalists' sources.

Indeed, quite the opposite, it serves a reminder of government's incentives to manipulate and hide information that is better the public's knowledge. And if journalists are sometimes vulnerable to government manipulation, this is a small price to pay if the alternative is that we wouldn't have anonymous sources to tell the public about alll the moments of governmnt malfeasance. Without anonynimity, we may have never learned about Watergate, let alone about the Bush administration's decision to condone torture.

Tan Yan Chen

There is an assumption that if given more legal protection journalists would have more sources of information, with the reverse being that no protection means the chilling of information and sources. But I don't believe this to be the case any more. Yes, we had the Watergate and the Pentagon Papers, but that's in the past.

What we have now is an unregulated institution making bad editorial decisions at best and doing the government's biddings at worst. The biggest stories of the past few years have all been sat on: 60 Minutes delayed breaking of the torture story for 2 weeks because the government said there was heavy fighting in Iraq, and NYT sat on the NSA wiretapping story for a whole year before revealing it because the government claimed national security.

The troubling connection here is that while the press struggles to maintain itself as the 4th estate, the government is the hand feeding it. Fundamentally this is troubling not just because the press is yielding to its sources, which in this case is the government, but that any connection or favor given by the government undermines the independence and judgment of the press.

Essentially, shield law is the press asking the government to give it power and independence to go against government interests. Theoretically that may sound good, but practically speaking I just can't see that making sense in practice--especially in an age when there is such heavy reliance on government sources.

Journalists need protection for the sake of their independence and credibility, but shield law is not the way to go because it does not free the press from government influence. Rather, it gives government sources the ability to leverage against the press when they do provide information.

While I do believe protecting the independence of journalists and sources are important, we should be thinking beyond legal means, because it is obviously not cutting it.

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Markus

These informants risk the loss of their jobs. That is a risk that they are likely to take only if they can be relatively assured that their anonymity will be safeguarded. However, the Libby case undoubtedly will make many possible informants question this assurance of anonymity. The press privilege for journalists must be zealously guarded in order to encourage sources to disclose what they know.

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Alonzo Mourning

I absolutely agree. A recent analysis by the Washington Post admitted, as it had to, that this case shows that journalists are sometime's vulnerable to government manipulation. However, as you point out this is hardly an argument for eliminating protection of journalists' sources.

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chain saw

Of course. It must be a journalistic code of conduct not to reveal their sources. I think they have a right to this, and if this had to change – well, they wouldn't get any news! One must realise, though, that there are specific times or topics or stories journalists SHOULDN'T be getting. Let's take the recent interest in Diana's death, as an example. According to an eye-witness, he saw two photographers taking photographs when the car crashed. When asked if he saw these photographers helping the people in the car, he said 'no.' Here, we see journalists taking it too far. While it unrelates to the idea of informants, it certainly shows something where journalists ought to be seriously ridiculed and dealt with.

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