The “Free” Press?

25945Losing the suit and tie, Associated Press President and CEO Gary Pruitt returns to UC Berkeley to discuss The Free Press vs. National Security: A False Choice? Pruitt argues that a free and independent press is fundamental to a functioning democracy and separates a free society from tyranny.

“When I became the president of AP, I told our staff worldwide that our mission is to inform the world so that kids growing up today will get a chance to go to school, get a chance to fall in love, and get a chance to be cool; borrowing from Neil Young’s Rockin’ in the Free World, and there can be no higher mission than that.” Pruitt elaborates that their mission has recently been threatened by government intervention. In May, 2013 AP received an e-mail from the Department of Justice (that they were required by law to send), informing them that they had secretly seized thousands of AP’s phone records over the course of 40 days. Seizing records without notification is a blatant violation of the first amendment and the DoJ’s own rules on how information should be gathered from a media organization.

After an investigation had been launched, the Associated Press was surprised and pleased to see that within two months the Justice Department had responded to AP’s injustice by claiming they would not use the phone records for any purpose other than this investigation, and under a direct order from President Obama, had reviewed and updated their guidelines on how they conduct information gathering from the media. Pruitt added,”The Justice Department also made clear they will not prosecute a journalist for doing his/her job. It’s nice to know that in the United States it’s not a crime to commit journalism.”

Governments who attempt to create a situation where citizens think they must choose between a free press and national security are making a mistake that will ultimately weaken, not strengthen them. It’s not a real choice. It’s a false choice.

57Watch the Complete Board Event at the Goldman School, and browse other scholars and practitioners who have made substantial contributions to the field of public policy in talks presented by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.

Join the conversation on Twitter @UCTelevision, @AP, @TheJusticeDept, #freepress