News / USA

Report: White House Scrutiny of Leaks Threatens Press Freedom

A reporter takes notes as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (C) answers his question about Syria during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, Aug. 27, 2013.
A reporter takes notes as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (C) answers his question about Syria during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, Aug. 27, 2013.
VOA News
The Obama administration's aggressive prosecution of leaks and its efforts to control information are becoming a threat to press freedom and democracy, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

A report released Thursday by the New York-based media watchdog group said U.S. President Barack Obama's actions have been a sharp contradiction to his promise of transparency and open government.

Former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie, the report's author, said "administration officials and employees are increasingly afraid to talk to the press" due to heightened scrutiny of leaks.

He said six government employees and two contractors have been targeted for prosecution under the 1917 Espionage Act for accusations they leaked classified information to the press. Downie said this was a chilling use of a law used "only in three previous cases in the past nine decades."

White House officials interviewed for the report strongly objected to being portrayed as against press freedom. "The idea that people are shutting up and not leaking to reporters is belied by the facts," Obama press secretary Jay Carney told Downie.

National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said there is still investigative reporting about national security issues with information from "non-sanctioned sources with lots of unclassified information and some sensitive information.''

Downie interviewed numerous reporters and editors, including a top editor at The Associated Press, following revelations this year the government secretly seized records for telephone lines and switchboards used by more than 100 AP journalists. Downie also interviewed journalists whose sources have been prosecuted on felony charges.

In a statement accompanying the report, the Committee to Protect Journalists said it was "disturbed by the pattern of actions" that "have chilled the flow of information on issues of great public interest, including matters of national security."

The report about the United States is unusual for the press freedom group, which has this year completed investigations on Burma, China, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, and Tanzania. The only time the United States has been the subject of a CPJ report was 19 years ago in a study on attacks on immigrant journalists.

CPJ executive director Joel Simon said the group decided to investigate U.S. press freedom "because journalists told us that the relationship with the administration had deteriorated to the point where it makes it difficult for them to do their job."

Downie added the Obama administration's "war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive" he had seen since the Nixon administration and The Washington Post's investigation of Watergate.

He said the policies are also harmful to U.S. efforts to promote press and Internet freedom around the world.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
October 10, 2013 11:04 PM
Thank you for being willing to cover this story, and related ones.

by: us from: us
October 10, 2013 7:07 PM
Becoming more of a Fascist country all the time. We are only given the illusion of freedom. Our elections are fixed, our money supply is based on nothing, and we are constantly being told what we can and cannot do. It amazes me that people are so oblivious to the REAL world. I guess as long as there is something to watch on TV, life is good??

by: Anonymous
October 10, 2013 3:40 PM
I would comment but I'm afraid of my government
In Response

by: Shameful from: USA
October 10, 2013 10:04 PM
And they have you right where they want you. SHAME ON YOU!!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs