Associated Press Scandal: Does the Media Only Care About Free Speech When It Comes to Their Own?


It is no surprise that the media has been quick to voice its support for Fox News reporter James Rosen and the Associated Press , following revelations of invasive government investigations into their respective sources. Rosen’'s personal emails had been accessed as part of  a larger probe which began in 2009 and focused on potential leaks of classified information on North Korea. Simultaneously, it  has been revealed that the Obama Aadministration seized phone records from the AP over concerns about classified aAl-Qaieda information. And why shouldn’'t journalists be concerned? After all, if there is anything that the media in this country stands for, it’'s the First Amendment. It’'s the responsibility to seek the truth and the right of all citizens to do so. This isn’'t just about news outlets defending themselves so they can keep their sources, their jobs, or their integrity. Right?

There are certainly grave concerns regarding the potential for classified information to reach the public. And for those reasons some people may try to justify the administration’'s actions in these situations. Conversely, (and seemingly the more popular sentiment at the moment), , news outlets have a responsibility to seek out and report the truth. Reporters should not operate under fear of government surveillance just as individuals should not fear invasions of their personal privacy when they are solicited to provide information.

The media undoubtedly has a place in this debate, a place to defend the First Amendment and to pledge to continue to report responsibly and fearlessly. And that’'s great. But what about when it is not a journalist whose right to freedom of speech and personal privacy is at stake? What about when it is an individual or an organization outside of the mainstream media? Would so many outlets be so quick to defend a regular  unaffiliated person who may or may not have broken the law, and at the very least acted extremely carelessly, in a quest for facts? Probably not.                       

There is an obvious example in recent memory of a private person publicizing some very classified information: Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks and hacker- extraordinaire, published confidential government cables en masse in late 2010, prompting an official investigation. The sheer sensationalism of the act grabbed media attention. But a foreign individual spreading the secrets of our nation the world over? Didn’'t quite pull at the heart strings of the media. Some hated him. Others questioned him. Now they’'re making a movie about him.  And although very few defended him, at least everyone talked about him. .

And all that talking has come in handy. Now that Pfc. Bradley Manning is being charged with sharing classified information with WikiLeaks in 2010, the media is not only widely covering  the situation, but some are even defending the young man in the wake of WikiLeaks-M mania. But what does this mean for the rest of us? Well, for those of us who were not hands-on participants in the whole WikiLeaks shebang and don’'t plan on joining in any similarly sensational public movements anytime soon, it doesn’'t seem to mean much.

Clearly the media elite have a solidarity that bestows a unified defense against a violation of personal rights, and, upon aon rare occasion, the rights of certain notable individuals are introduced into the discussion. We can only hope that in the great upset over their own freedoms they do not forget about the rest of us.