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We Already Have a “Media Shield”: The First Amendment

Should Congress pass a “media shield” law to protect news agencies such as Fox News and the Associated Press from the sorts of government actions recently taken against those organizations by the Department of Justice? The DOJ seized phone records of the AP and seized emails of Fox News’s James Rosen.

Steve Simpson, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, argues that Congress should not pass such a law:

[M]edia shield laws are a mistake, because they treat freedom of speech like a privilege to be doled out by politicians like so many special interest perks. What Congress giveth, Congress can taketh away. We ought not bargain so freely with our rights. . . . The fact is, the First Amendment was designed to protect speech in its many forms from government intervention. We don’t need special laws to protect all this speech. We just need to take the First Amendment seriously.

As Simpson points out in the linked article, the Supreme Court rightly recognized in the Citizens United case that the First Amendment protects the speech rights of groups of people as well as lone individuals. (As Wendy Kaminer of the Atlantic notes, the Citizens United decision also upholds the right of the ACLU, a corporation, to “challenge the NSA’s domestic surveillance” program in court.)

American’s concerned with protecting their right to freedom of speech would do well to read Simpson’s article and share it far and wide. And we would do well to oft-repeat its central point: We already have a perfectly sufficient law pertaining to freedom of speech in this area. That law states, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. . . .” We just need to insist with our voices and our votes that government abide by that law.

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