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GOP Senate Candidate Wants To ‘Shut Down’ National Media

Don Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general running for Senate in New Hampshire, suggested on Tuesday that the national media should be shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to reduce public anxiety.

"I have a recommendation," he told a Sullivan County GOP meeting. To "buy down the fear," he proposed, "let's simply take national media and shut it down and see what happens. I guarantee you that better information gets out at the local level, people are better informed, there's less hyperbole, [and] there's less fear being spread."

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Danziger: No News Is Bad News

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

A Year After Newsroom Massacre, Trump And Putin Agree On Repressing Journalism

Will no one rid Trump of these meddlesome journalists?

Trump chose Friday — the one-year anniversary of the murder of five journalists and employees by a mass shooter at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland — to laugh with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin about his desire to eliminate journalists he does not like.

“Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it?” Trump said while seated next to Putin at the G20 meeting in Osaka, Japan. “You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do,” Trump said directly to Putin.

Putin responded in English, saying, “We also have. It’s the same.”

Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs noted that the two leaders “shared a chuckle” during the chilling exchange.

Exactly one year ago, a gunman entered the office of the Capital Gazette and murdered Wendi Winters, John McNamara, Robert Hiaasen, Rebecca Smith, and Gerald Fischman with a shotgun. It marked the deadliest day for journalism since the 9/11 terror attacks, and brought renewed criticism of Trump’s dangerous rhetoric attacking the news media.

But on the one-year anniversary of the murder, Trump decided to attack the free press in front of Putin — even though dozens of journalists have been murdered in Russia during Putin’s tenure.

“A President of the United States must understand — and care — just how dangerous and undemocratic this is,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) wrote on Twitter in response to Trump’s interaction with Putin. Trump “fails this basic test, over and over and over again. 31 journalists have been murdered in Russia since Putin rose to power, according to @pressfreedom data.”

“On the one-year anniversary of the deadliest newsroom shooting in American history, this is totally unacceptable,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) wrote. “It would be on any day, but today it is especially reprehensible.”

Amb. Michael McFaul, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Obama, was likewise upset by Trump’s remarks.

“This is disgusting. Thinking of all my murdered, censored, and unemployed journalist friends in Russia now,” McFaul said.

Trump has repeatedly referred to journalists, particularly news outlets that may criticize his policies, as the “enemy of the people” or even the “opposition party.

In February, the publisher of the New York Times said Trump’s language is “encouraging threats and violence against journalists.” After Trump accused the Times of treason, a crime punishable by death, the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed by the publisher of the rival New York Times, writing that Trump’s rhetoric “crosses a dangerous line in the president’s campaign against a free and independent press.”

“On the one-year anniversary of the deadliest newsroom shooting in American history, this is totally unacceptable. It would be on any day, but today it is especially reprehensible.”

Trump’s disdain toward both the free press and the slain journalists in Maryland was on full display as he laughed with a murderous Russian dictator about getting rid of journalists.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

The Assange Indictment Is a Victory for Press Freedom

Julian Assange has a knack for making enemies. Conservatives denounced him in 2010 after he put online a horde of classified information provided by Chelsea Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst who went to prison for the leaks. Liberals revile him for disclosing hacked Democratic National Committee emails and helping elect Donald Trump.

On top of those, two Swedish women say he sexually assaulted them, which led to an arrest warrant that prompted him to seek asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy in London. He was arrested there “on behalf of the United States” Thursday morning after his asylum was canceled.

There will be no shortage of schadenfreude among those who see him as a malicious enemy of our security and democracy. That includes Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who tweeted Thursday that he “deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.”

The problem with prosecuting Assange, though, has always been obvious. His chief sins involve publishing secret documents and other material that someone got through illicit means. But that practice is the stock-in-trade of legitimate news organizations, whose job is to find out things that are of public interest, classified or not. The Supreme Court has blessed such activity more than once — notably when it refused to bar publication of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War.

Indicting him under the federal Espionage Act would threaten the First Amendment, which protects the freedom of the press — a right available to every person, not just major newspapers and cable news outlets. The only plausible exception applicable here would be if the government could demonstrate that the publication created a “clear and present danger” of serious harm to the nation and that the risk outweighed the value of the disclosure to the citizenry.

Without this constitutional protection, legitimate journalists could be locked up for reporting classified information leaked by government officials — even the president himself. But publishing leaks is essential for the American people to understand what their government does and hold it accountable. Among the secrets that WikiLeaks revealed in 2010 were that thousands more Iraqi civilians were killed than the U.S. military acknowledged, and that it turned a blind eye to torture and other abuses by Iraqi forces.

The fact that WikiLeaks published information secured by theft doesn’t deprive Assange of the protections of the First Amendment. When a radio station aired an illegally intercepted phone conversation about a labor strike between two officials of a teachers union, the Supreme Court said the station could not be held liable for its broadcast.

It’s not the responsibility of the press outlets or individuals like Assange to lock down classified information. That is the job of the government. It has every right to monitor employees such as Manning who gain access to its secrets — and to punish them for classified leaks. But if the government can’t manage to prevent such disclosures, it should blame itself. It shouldn’t try to block news organizations or other websites from making them available.

Obviously, one of the Justice Department’s purposes in going after Assange is to deter anyone from revealing classified information. The good news is that it has taken a very narrow approach to his case. The sole charge (so far, at least) is that he actively assisted Manning’s violation of the law by helping her crack a password for a Defense Department computer. If convicted, Sasse will be disappointed to learn, Assange faces no more than five years behind bars.

That alleged conduct is the equivalent of holding a ladder for a burglar breaking into an office. WikiLeaks, like a news organization, may publish stolen secrets. It may even invite people to turn over those secrets — and promise to protect their identity. One thing it may not do is take part in the theft.

The ACLU and the Freedom of the Press Foundation objected to the indictment. But they should be relieved, if not enthusiastic. The government decided not to push the Supreme Court to make it easier to punish the publication of classified material. Instead, it has chosen to target a type of behavior that freedom of the press doesn’t cover.

The Assange case might have turned into a major setback for the First Amendment. At the moment, though, it looks like a win.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.