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Panel illuminates post-9/11 threats to press freedom

By Gene Policinski
First Amendment Center vice president/executive director

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One of the casualties of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, may have been some measure of press freedom in America.

How so?

The news media’s daily work of covering the news, and uncovering what government is doing, has been hobbled by the government’s reaction to 9/11. First came an understandable — up to a point — rush to conceal information that could be used to damage us further or make it easier to do so. Then followed attempts to stop publication of news stories about legally questionable anti-terror efforts, as administration officials warned of consequences such as weakened protections against those who would do us harm.

There were even calls to prosecute journalists under the Espionage Act if they revealed certain sensitive information. Meanwhile classification of information that was once public continued apace, often with dubious justification.

This year, on the sixth anniversary of the attacks, American University’s communication school and WAMU 88.5 FM in Washington produced an “American Forum” program to examine these difficult issues. Noted press analyst Jane Hall of American University, a frequent Fox News contributor, led a panel of journalists and a freedom-of-information expert on a tour of the landscape of government secrecy and some of its disturbing features.

The panelists were Meredith Fuchs, general counsel, National Security Archive; Shane Harris, intelligence correspondent, National Journal; Eric Lichtblau, reporter, The New York Times; and Ken Paulson, editor of USA Today and former executive director of the First Amendment Center.

Here's the link to the audio archive from that program. Below you'll find a transcript. We thought the discussion well worth preserving.

Download transcript of "American Forum" program with Jane Hall. (200 KB)

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Freedom under fire: Israel and the lessons of 9/11

By Charles C. Haynes Recent visit highlights how a country under constant terrorist siege manages to preserve vigorous free speech and dissent. 09.11.08

First Amendment Watch blog with Gene Policinski

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