Journalists face scrutiny from the public, politicians and the government. Today, that scrutiny can turn into phone record seizures and investigations. The FBI has separate rules that enable agents to investigate journalists to a greater degree than ordinary civilians. FBI officials are able to seize journalists’ phone records. What defines a journalist? Is an op-ed columnist, someone who opines, or an investigative report a purer form of a journalist? How does one fall under the FBI’s journalist classification?
Journalism is defined as the activity or profession of writing for newspapers or magazines or of broadcasting news on radio or television. In the era of social media and the growing number of online magazines and news agencies, there are a significant number of journalists who fit the definition. The FBI rules are alarming in that anyone who has written a column or an opinion could be subject to these relatively loose rules.
The press have an important voice in society. The lens and bias nature of the press is always up for debate but not its worth. People always want to know what’s going on in the world around them. That desire to understand the world and help influence it for the ideals and nation I believe in is why I joined the military. I’ve met plenty of journalists who care deeply about the country. I think everyone has or has been exposed to them on television. I don’t believe that it’s an easy life, nor one that regularly involves getting rich. You have to believe in it. For that reason, I draw a parallel between military or government service and journalism.
A journalist abroad might be uncovering information that’s relevant to national security or trailing those domestically that might pose a threat or unraveling a string that uncovers possible danger. I am fearful that journalism can be misconstrued as vigilante work and via exposure or interaction with possible terrorists lead to an arrest. Given loose restrictions around journalists, it could go awry. I understand that journalists should be scrutinized and that’s fair. But, maybe a conversation is warranted before an agent seizes phone conversations. A professional journalist might have a confidential source – who the FBI, in turn, might uncover. Violating the confidential professionalism and probable career of the journalist.
This applies to whistle-blowers, as well. The Senate found that the FBI harshly punishes their own internal whistle-blowers disproportionately. There’s a growing culture and sentiment among the American people that they are not safe from their government. Aspects of this are fueling political sentiment and the suspicion of corruption and unfair practices require policy transparency where possible.
Featured image courtesy of www.thejournal.ie.