By MELANIE MARTINEZ
The governor of California, Jerry Brown, has recently signed a law that expands protections for journalists.
It reigns in the control of federal prosecutors by giving journalists a five days’ notice before they serve the reporters subpoenas on their records, so that they cannot leak them to the media.
This way, the government agencies’ ability to seize journalists’ records is substantially curbed. They must first give a notice to reporters and news organizations before seeking a subpoena of journalistic information. This information refers to that of a third party, such as internet service providers and cell phone companies.
This law comes about after the Justice Department’s investigation of leaks about a Yemen conspiracy to bomb a U.S. airliner in 2012. The government’s agents had seized phone records from the Associated Press without first notifying them.
In July the Justice Department pledged to notify news organizations if a subpoena on information is being sought.
Here in Florida, the government has existing shield laws and court-recognized privileges for journalists and the media.
Although this a law enacted in California, an action like this affects the country as a whole and the journalists who report and write in it.
As seen throughout American history, when one state enacts a law, it says something about the state of the country and its policies as a whole.
The United States, though it is a democratic country with freedoms of press and speech, it ranks as low as 47th in the world by the Press Freedom Index created by Reporters Without Borders.
Though the California law mirrors the new media regulations put in place at the federal level, concerns over the way the Occupy protests were handled and the fact that the First Amendment is being taken for granted mean our government must keep moving towards total press freedom.
The Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment in order for Americans to be able to truly express themselves and seek truth and righteousness from our government. As Americans, we can never lose sight of that.
As Abraham Lincoln implored in his Gettysburg Address, the world “can never forget what they did here.”
The only way we can have a truly free democracy is if we have a truly free press, existing sans restrictions that prohibit the public from knowing the truth in order to spark debate and have a government by the people, for the people.