Thursday, September 08, 2005

More Katrina Censorship: Another Impeachable Offense?

On June 8, 1789, James Madison introduced his first version of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Portrait of James Madison

The original version stated:
''The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.''
Blackstone explained the common law view:
''The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press: but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequences of his own temerity. To subject the press to the restrictive power of a licenser, as was formerly done, both before and since the Revolution, is to subject all freedom of sentiment to the prejudices of one man, and make him the arbitrary and infallible judge of all controverted points in learning, religion and government."
The final text, and current First Amendment to the United States Constitution states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
But this President and his Administration don't appear to care much about this part of the Constitution they were sworn to uphold.

During the invasion of Iraq, as reported:
The Pentagon reissued a directive during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 that banned news coverage of "deceased military personnel returning to or departing" from air bases.

The Pentagon claimed it was trying to protect the privacy of military families.

This was "a decision that reversed decades of tradition," said Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive.
Our Administration is public relations driven. War is evaluated for photo-ops. And control of information is deemed essential in maintaining public support. Pictures of too many caskets could undermine enthusiasm for this military adventure.

Since this was so successful, it was only a matter of time that this Administration would try to control the furor of the Katrina debacle.

Now comes this:
Forced to defend what some critics consider its slow response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from New Orleans.

FEMA, which is leading the rescue efforts, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims, Reuters reported.

A FEMA spokeswoman told the wire service that space was needed on the rescue boats and assured Reuters that "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect."

"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman told Reuters via e-mail.
Dead people are upsetting. And lots of dead people could be devastating. So let's censor the press and just give the public the "good news" they need!

When does this all stop? When does Congress step up to the plate and ask the hard questions about this President? Isn't freedom of the press virtually inviolate? When is it o.k. for the United States Government reeling with criticism over its mismanagement of the Katrina disaster to control access of the public to images, however, distasteful, that show the real effect of those delays in getting help to New Orleans? When is violation of Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms going to be found to be the basis of Impeachment?

America deserves better.



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