July 24, 2013

ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION: Congress and the Justice Dept’s Dangerous Attempts to Define “Journalist” Threaten to Exclude Bloggers.

While the DOJ’s effort to limit the scope of who can be recognized as a journalist is problematic, it doesn’t have teeth. Guidelines are, well, guidelines. But the report is part of a broader legislative effort in Washington to simultaneously offer protection for the press while narrowing the scope of who is afforded it. Importantly, Congress introduced federal shield bills in May—both ironically named the “Free Flow of Information Act of 2013”—that arguably would exclude bloggers, freelancers, and other non-salaried journalists from protection because they are not included within the bills’ narrow definition of who qualifies as a journalist.

If these bills—support for which the White House reaffirmed in its DOJ report—pass without change, Congress effectively will create two tiers of journalists: the institutional press licensed by the government, and everyone else. That’s a pretty flimsy shield if what we are really trying to protect is the free flow of information.

Yes, but that’s not what they — not “we” — are trying to do. In machine politics, there’s always a special set of rules for the insiders. This is crony journalism, to go along with the crony capitalism.

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