Tag Archives: Journalists

In Comments Criticizing the Media, Obama Ignores His Administration’s History of Censoring Journalists

President Obama unleashed a new series of critical comments regarding the media Monday night, claiming journalists should “maintain certain standards,” and should not be “government-controlled.”

During a speech at the “2015 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting” ceremony at Syracuse University, Obama began by discussing the accomplishments of Robin Toner, the first woman to be the national correspondent for the New York Times, who died in 2008.

The president then took the time to criticize the current state of political journalism, and said he believes it’s worth asking ourselves what each of us—as politicians or journalists, but most of all, as citizens—may have done to contribute to this atmosphere in our politics.”

[pull_quote_center]The divisive and often vulgar rhetoric that’s aimed at everybody, but often is focused on the vulnerable or women or minorities. The sometimes well-intentioned but I think misguided attempts to shut down that speech. The violent reaction that we see, as well as the deafening silence from too many of our leaders in the coarsening of the debate. The sense that facts don’t matter, that they’re not relevant. That what matters is how much attention you can generate. A sense that this is a game as opposed to the most precious gift our Founders gave us—this collective enterprise of self-government.[/pull_quote_center]

Obama went on to say that the “Fourth Estate” journalist should not be “government-controlled” and should “maintain certain standards” that do not “dumb down the news.”

[pull_quote_center]Part of the independence of the Fourth Estate is that it is not government-controlled, and media companies thereby have an obligation to pursue profits on behalf of their shareholders, their owners, and also has an obligation to invest a good chunk of that profit back into news and back into public affairs, and to maintain certain standards and to not dumb down the news, and to have higher aspirations for what effective news can do. Because a well-informed electorate depends on you. And our democracy depends on a well-informed electorate.[/pull_quote_center]

Obama also said that in the years to come, people will look back at this time and they will look for “the smartest investigative journalism” where journalists “asked the hard questions and forced people to see the truth even when it was uncomfortable.”

[pull_quote_center]But 10, 20, 50 years from now, no one seeking to understand our age is going to be searching the Tweets that got the most retweets, or the post that got the most likes. They’ll look for the kind of reporting, the smartest investigative journalism that told our story and lifted up the contradictions in our societies, and asked the hard questions and forced people to see the truth even when it was uncomfortable.[/pull_quote_center]

[RELATED: Obama Has Sentenced Whistleblowers to 10x the Jail Time of All Prior U.S. Presidents Combined]

While Obama criticized the current climate in journalism, he did not mention the fact that his administration has prosecuted 12 individuals under the Espionage Act—with a case still pending against Edward Snowden—which is more than four times the three whistleblowers who were prosecuted prior to his presidency.

According to ACLU Washington’s Gabe Rottman, “By my count, the Obama administration has secured 526 months of prison time for national security leakers, versus only 24 months total jail time for everyone else since the American Revolution.”

“The last and best source of that accountability is a free press. Tragically, that free press now has a 526-month sentence to serve,” Rottman added.

Obama also did not credit the fact that his administration has set the record for withholding Freedom of Information Act requests, and that in 77 percent of cases, requests are met with empty or redacted files.

The Associated Press noted that, “In some high-profile instances, usually after news organizations filed expensive federal lawsuits, the Obama administration found tens of thousands of pages after it previously said it couldn’t find any.”

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Virginia Police Accused Of Forcing BBC Reporters To Delete Crash Footage Of Shooting Suspect

Two BBC reporters covering the manhunt of Vester Flanagan, the suspect in the shooting death of WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward, were reportedly ordered by Virginia police to delete their footage or surrender their cameras.

Parker, 24, and Ward, 27, were shot and killed during a live TV report for WDBJ7 on Wednesday morning while interviewing Vicki Gardner, the executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, at a shopping mall in Monetta, Virginia. Gardner was also shot, and is in stable condition.

[RELATED: VIDEO: Journalists murdered on live TV during interview, suspect identified]

State police claimed that shooting suspect Vester Flanagan, a former reporter for WDBJ7, died hours after the shooting from a self-inflicted gun wound after he was chased by police.

Franz Strasser and Tara McKelvey, reporters covering the manhunt for BBC, claimed they were on the scene when Flanagan’s car veered off the road and crashed.

Following the crash, state police said that they found Flanagan in his car “suffering from a gunshot wound.” He was then “transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries,” where he died.

[RELATED: Suspect Accused Of Killing Virginia Journalists Dies In Hospital]

While reporting from the scene of the crash, Strasser posted on his Twitter account that he was approached by Virginia state police and ordered to delete his footage of the crash or else he would have his camera confiscated.

Strasser added that while he was “too far away to get any good footage,” one officer threatened to take his camera and tow his car.

While Strasser initially Tweeted that McKelvey filmed the encounter with her iPhone, he then came back and said that the footage was “unstable.”

Corinne Geller, the statewide public relations manager for the Virginia State Police, responded to Strasser’s Tweet and said that they have acknowledged that the officer’s actions “violate VSP policy” and that are are “looking into the incident.”

In a letter to the Virginia State Police, Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association, wrote that the forcible deletion of evidence was unlawful and requested an investigation into the incident.

“The NPPA is extremely troubled by what appears to be an attempt to prevent them from covering the story or documenting police activity,” Osterreicher wrote. “For us this is the worst example of a prior restraint of free speech and of the press. While I understand tensions were high this misguided and illegal action was an abridgment of the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment.”

[RELATED: Will Virginia Shooting Be Classified As a Hate Crime?]

Following the shooting, several politicians were quick to blame guns and to use the tragedy to call for more gun control. During a recent segment of Reality Check, investigative journalist Ben Swann questioned why when mass shootings occur, the discussion always turns to the need for gun control while the “national debate on mind-altering drugs and anti-depressants is nonexistent.”


Will Virginia Shooting Be Classified As a Hate Crime?

The shooting that killed WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward and wounded local Chamber of Commerce Executive Vicki Gardner during a live TV interview on Wednesday in Moneta, Virginia, has raised questions about the suspect’s motives, and whether the shooting will be classified as a hate crime.

Several social media posts were found and a 23-page manifesto titled “Suicide Note for Friends and Family” was obtained shortly before the suspect, former WDBJ7 reporter Vester Flanagan, who went by the alias Bryce Williams, died from a self-inflicted gun wound.

[RELATED: Suspect Accused Of Killing Virginia Journalists Dies In Hospital]

In the manifesto, which was faxed to ABC News on Wednesday morning nearly two hours after the shooting at 8:26 a.m., the author claiming to be Flanagan wrote that he was discriminated against for being a gay, black man while working at WDBJ7.

The manifesto also lists inspirations such as Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold, students who went on a shooting massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, killing 13 people and injuring 24 others, and Seung Hui Cho, a student who opened fire on the campus of Virginia Tech in 2007, killing 32 people and wounding 23 others.

Flanagan claimed that the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in June, in which suspect Dylann Roof reportedly opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing nine, was the final straw.

“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15,” the manifesto stated. “What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

[quote_center]“As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!” [/quote_center]

The Twitter posts after the shooting on an account under the name Bryce Williams, which has since been suspended, also contain complaints about discrimination.

One Tweet claimed that “Alison made racist comments,” while another said “Adam went to HR on me after working with me one time!!!” Flanagan also referenced a report he filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Flanagan, who joined WDBJ7 in 2012 as a multimedia journalist and general assignment reporter, was fired in Feb. 2013 for unknown reasons.

CNN reported that while court documents claim that Ward crossed paths with Flanagan on the day Flanagan was fired from the network, WDBJ7 general manager Jeff Marks noted that Flanagan and Parker had not worked for the station at the same time.

The U.S. Department of Justice defines a hate crime as “the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or disability.”

The DoJ also notes that individuals “may become frustrated and angry if they believe the local government and other groups in the community will not protect them,” and that when perpetrators of hate crimes “are not “persecuted as criminals and their acts are not publicly condemned, their crimes can weaken even those communities with the healthiest race relations.”

Hillary Clinton Hides From Reporters During New Hampshire Parade

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is facing a new wave of criticism after it was reported that journalists were “roped off” from Clinton during a July Fourth parade in New Hampshire.

While walking and talking to potential voters, Clinton’s campaign aides set up a rope between the journalists and the candidate. New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairman Jennifer Horn said that Clinton “continues to demonstrate her obvious contempt and disdain for the Granite State’s style of grassroots campaigning.” Horn went on to call the use of a rope “a sad joke and insults the traditions of our first-in-the-nation primary.”

 This is the second time within several weeks that the Clinton campaign has been accused of denying a reporter access to at least one campaign event.

Maggie Haberman, Presidential campaign correspondent for the NY Times, tweeted “Spectacle of Clinton as candidate – press being pulled along with a rope, Benghazi protester screams “carpetbagger”

Fox News and The New York Times also reported that the event was marked by a handful of protesters heckling Clinton.  The protesters were holding signs and shouting questions to Mrs. Clinton about her involvement with the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed.

Regarding the rope fiasco, the Clinton Campaign told CNN: “While the GOP might want to spin a good yarn on this, let’s not get tied up in knots. We wanted to accommodate the press, allow (Clinton) greet voters (sic.) And allow the press to be right there in the parade with her, as opposed to preset locations.”