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Obama’s Newest Assault on Free Speech: The So-Called ‘Free Flow of Information Act’

Written By : Warner Todd Huston
March 28, 2014

Obama’s newest attack on free political speech protects neither journalists nor does it assure any “free flow of information.”

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In addition to the IRS targeting conservative groups, individuals and their families–and now proposing rules to silence them during elections–and the new FCC plan to police the press by placing so-called “researchers” in newsrooms across the country, the Obama administration is pushing Congress to pass legislation that threatens the First Amendment rights of citizen journalists, grassroots activists, and bloggers by creating a federal government media licensing regime.

The “Free Flow of Information Act of 2013” (S. 987) would allow the federal government to determine who is and who is not a “journalist” and to grant special privileges to only the institutional and paid media.

By giving special legal protections to the journalistic-elite who meet the federal government’s definition of “legitimate” media, the bill would create the very type of government media licensing system that the Founding Fathers intended to prohibit with the First Amendment.

This de facto licensing regime would target the new renegade press, i.e., those who disagree with the administration, and make the specially-privileged supplicants to the federal government, undermining liberty by silencing the voices of citizen journalists, grassroots activists and bloggers.

The American Revolution was stoked by renegade pamphleteers and town criers who used unlicensed presses to overthrow tyranny—a tradition worth fighting for.

In recognition of this, our Founding Fathers ratified the First Amendment’s Free

Press Clause to protect pamphleteers and citizen journalists who publish their opinions in “every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.” Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972).

In other words, the Free Press Clause was intended to protect all Americans from a tyrannical government’s efforts to silence its critics. S.987 would weaken that protection and invite that tyranny.

But on top of all this, the law won’t really be much of a shield for those “official government approved” journalists, either, as it will require them to hand their sources over to government.

(Thanks to Texas Senator John Cornyn‘s office for much of the above info.)

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