NY Times reporter calls Obama administration the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation

Recent reports from the Associated Press and Cause of Action have explained in great detail that President Barack Obama hasn’t come close to living up to promises of greater transparency, a result of the White House’s effort to control information requested by the press that could prove to be a political headache or embarrassing.

The administration’s obsession of controlling of information isn’t limited to what documents are released. It also extends to how the administration tries to control the press, as James Risen, a reporter for The New York Times, recently explained at a conference (emphasis added):

New York Times reporter James Risen, who is fighting an order that he testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him, opened the conference earlier by saying the Obama administration is “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.” The administration wants to “narrow the field of national security reporting,” Risen said, to “create a path for accepted reporting.” Anyone journalist who exceeds those parameters, Risen said, “will be punished.”

The administration’s aggressive prosecutions have created “a de facto Official Secrets Act,” Risen said, and the media has been “too timid” in responding.

Risen isn’t the only example. Just last year, the Justice Department subpoenaed phone records of reporters at the Associated Press as it investigated a leak that stemmed from a May 2012 story dealing with a terrorist plot in Yemen that the new organization ran.

More troublesome was the administration’s targeting of James Rosen. The Justice Department actually named the Fox News correspondent as a co-conspirator under the Espionage Act in the subpoena to gain access to his phone records and email accounts. Rosen’s parents and other Fox News reporters were also caught up in the investigation.

There’s a reason why the United States dropped in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index rankings from 32nd in 2013 to 46th this year. The Obama administration has done more than its predecessor to go after leakers — despite promising them protections.


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