The role of the media vs. national security
I believe that the government should have very limited power to exercise prior restraint, and that this should not change in light of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. The Supreme Court has ruled in various cases against prior restraint, even in matters that where top-secret government information was being published. It has historically been part of a journalist’s job to expose government secrets to the public, and this is not something the government should interfere with. One example is the publication of the Pentagon Papers, which outlined the actions of the U.S. government in the Vietnam War and showed ways in which the administration had been covering up information and lying to the public. The government tried to prevent this information from being published on the grounds that it threatened national security, but the Supreme Court ruled against the government. While I understand that there is concern in times of war that publishing certain information would put troops in danger, I think more often than not the government will try to use prior restraint to cover up certain acts they don’t wish the public to know about. Of course, I tend to be pretty cynical and distrustful of the government in general so this influences my opinion, and there are those who would prefer to give the government greater power when national security is involved. Personally, I worry more about the motives of the government to be involved in war, and about what is really going on overseas in areas of combat versus what the government would like to have us believe. Therefore I think journalists are indispensable, especially in times of war, because they give the public access to information about what is happening and keep the government more accountable for their actions.
I believe conclusively that there should be no policy that allows the government to exercise prior restraint, and that the rules should not be changed in times of war. In cases where the safety of Americans is truly at risk, the government should have to prove that the publication is dangerous rather than assuming any powers. While some will argue that taking this approach jeopardizes our safety, I would point out that it is not the wish of American journalists or publications to put Americans at risk. Journalism is more concerned with uncovering truths and keeping the public informed, even when the government might not wish for certain information to be released. In doing so they play an important role in our society which should not be compromised by giving the government greater power to exercise prior restraint.