Human rights watch says US spying kills journalism

The Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union have issued a sharp rebuke of large-scale surveillance programs carried out by the United States government, saying in a joint report that such practices are hindering journalists.
The report, released Monday, asserts that mass surveillance has harmed journalists’ ability to obtain information about government activity from sources increasingly worried about being monitored.
“You don’t have to be a private person who thinks they have nothing to hide to be harmed by surveillance,” said Alex Sinha, a fellow at Human Rights Watch and the A.C.L.U. and the author of the report. “It’s slowing down journalists and chasing away their sources. It’s making it harder for them to do their jobs.”
The 120-page report criticizes government policies on secrecy, leak prevention and limiting contact between officials and news organizations, saying such practices are creating “serious challenges for journalists who cover national security, intelligence and law enforcement.”
The report is based on interviews with 92 people in the United States, including 46 journalists from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Washington Post, ABC News and The New York Times, among others. It also examines how surveillance programs affect the practice of law.
Journalists are now taking elaborate steps to protect their sources, including encrypting emails, text messages and phone calls, and, in some cases, forgoing electronic communication altogether.
“I don’t want the government to force me to act like a spy,” Adam Goldman, a reporter for The Washington Post, said in the report. “I’m not a spy. I’m a journalist.’’
Rising concern among journalists is driven in large part by news reports based on documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who exposed a trove of government secrets about surveillance programs. While much of the apprehension has been over privacy rights, such programs are also thwarting the media’s ability to serve as a check on government and undermining freedom of the press, according to the report.
President Obama has said that such surveillance programs are necessary for national security and has defended his administration’s leak investigations to protect military and intelligence officials. Government officials interviewed in the report denied that the surveillance programs were intended to discourage journalism.
Still, journalists interviewed for the report said that an environment of uncertainty is slowing down news coverage. Some also said they saw a link between surveillance programs and a rise in the frequency of leak prosecutions, making it more difficult to convince sources to share or confirm information, even to talk at all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: