National Press Club

National Press Club joins petition urging protection for digital reporting

October 15, 2014 | By John M. Donnelly | jdonnelly@cq.com

The National Press Club has joined some 7,000 media organizations, journalists and other individuals in calling on President Barack Obama to protect what the campaign calls the “Right to Report in the Digital Age.

In backing the petition, the NPC has argued that surveillance, intimidation, and restrictions on journalists threaten to undermine their ability to gather and report the news.

“Given our mission, we could not remain silent while the journalists we aim to serve have increasingly been stifled through the overreaches of government surveillance, crackdowns on whistleblowers and ensuing subpoenas of journalists to reveal confidential sources, harassment of journalists for doing their jobs, restrictions on communication with government officials, and a host of other issues that have led to a deterioration of press freedom in this country,” said NPC President Myron Belkind.

“The government's pursuit of journalists' sources combined with the eight leak prosecutions under the Espionage Act; the implementation of programs designed to ferret out potential leakers, such as ‘Insider Threat;’ and secret subpoenas of news outlets, have created an environment in which officials are terrified to speak with reporters without explicit permission,” writes Sara Rafsky, Americas research associate at the Committee to Protect Journalists, in a recent blog.

In addition, reports that the National Security Agency and allied spy agencies conducted surveillance of journalists—including a report in the German magazine Der Spiegel that the NSA hacked al-Jazeera--have also created a chilling effect on the press. And border crossings have long posed a risk for journalists, especially with respect to the search of electronic devices, signers of the petition believe.

“These government actions endanger journalists and their sources and undermine the platforms and processes that are at the heart of 21st century journalism,” Belkind said.

The Right to Report in the Digital Age campaign calls on Obama to take three specific and immediate steps to protect the rights of journalists and the public:

  1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations
  2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers
  3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border

Signatories on the petition include the Associated Press, Vice News, Bloomberg, the Huffington Post and Global Post, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Newspaper Guild, Poynter, and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

As a supporter, the National Press Club invites its members to back the petition in their personal and/or institutional capacity by signing here. To add your organization to the growing list of supporters, email the Committee to Protect Journalists’ advocacy director, Courtney Radsch at cradsch@cpj.org.