Media and First Amendment Protections

September 29, 2019

The First Amendment clause as it relates to the “Press” is/was intended to ensure that the press could report the news and even express opinion openly and without reprisal from the Government, whom it was assumed would in-fact be the target of much of the media news, reporting on and even opinion about. So powerful are the 1st Amendment protections of the press / media that it even allows them to violate laws that would land any other person(s) in prison for decades,such as receiving and releasing national security secrets and highly classified materials. For over two hundred years there has never been reason to visit the media’s role as it has always been a source of News and opinion. However, over the past decade, the medias role has been transformed. The media is no longer simple report news or provide opinions. The medias reporting, especially visible since the presidential election of 2016, has become a source of, or should we say as, evidence.

As reported by the Washington Times article dated Sunday, March 4, 2018, the FBI and the FISA Court both utilized a yahoo news article as “evidence” to secure search warrant(s) for American citizens [Click on article image to read full article].  The use of Mainstream media reports and Newspaper articles has become common place for starting investigative hearings, Federal investigations and even SCOTUS reference as evidence. The “Press” has become, and is being utilized as, far more then just news reporting and opinions. They are being relied upon as factual evidence!
” …Yahoo News story that the FBI cited to support its wiretap application”

This is inherently dangerous to both Justice and Democracy.  First, and this is especially true in the age of the Donald Trump Presidency, media stories are often released with little or no actual fact checking of reliable basis in fact. The Story or Report can be claimed to have come from reliable or anonymous sources but may have come from no sources at all, or sources with their own agenda and may be corrupt, fabricated or altered. However, in a court of law, if someone presented false, misleading or altered evidence, they would suffer serve consequences. So why should the same not be true for the Press media?

The Dangers

As exemplified in the this video, a single Newspaper Story can spur one or several Congressional investigations and even lead to more extensive investigations which cost tax paying American’s millions of dollars.  This is not only unfair, it is ludicrous and offensive to our notions of justice.  While no one is suggesting a suspension or alteration of the 1st Amendments protections of the “Press”, we ARE suggesting that their should be some accountability on the part of the press when their Stories cause such reactions or Real Harm [not perceived or reputational harms] or lead to the unjust prosecution or persecution of others whom are also entitled to the protections afforded under our United States Constitution.  After all, while the 1st Amendment allows all Americans the freedom of speech it has been deemed to not allow for the yelling Fire in a crowded movie theater!

“The idea of falsely shoutingfire” in a crowded theater arose from the Supreme Court’s 1919 decision in the case Schenck v. United States. The Court ruled unanimously that the First Amendment, though it protects freedom of expression, does not protect dangerous speech.”

Posted in Legal Eagle, Opinion.

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