Vapors of tyranny

Three cases of thwarting the press

The First Amendment notwithstanding, politicians and the press are natural enemies. Three recent events, two of them local, illustrate this.

On the national level, the Justice Department secretly obtained the call records for 20 phone lines owned by The Associated Press, an action that could put the sources for as many as 100 AP reporters at risk.

By using journalists’ private records to go after criminals and rule breakers, the administration is compelling those journalists to become arms of the law. That destroys the trust they have with sources and greatly diminishes their ability to do their jobs.

Here at home, as Ken Smith reports in two stories in Newslines this week, politicians are similarly thwarting reporters’ effort to do their jobs. In one case (see page 11), the district attorney in Glenn County, Robert Maloney, subpoenaed confidential notes taken by the Sacramento Valley Mirror’s Tim Crews while he was reporting a story involving the arrest of a couple. We’re happy to report the judge quashed the subpoena.

And then there’s the case of Karl Rove. Rove, a major figure in Republican politics, was scheduled to speak in Chico on Saturday in an event sponsored by a group raising campaign cash for state Sen. Jim Nielsen.

The speech was advertised on the radio. Smith phone-ordered a ticket and arrived prepared to pay for it. He was then told Rove’s speech was closed to the press.

This is illegal. You can’t advertise an event and then forbid members of a certain group from attending. If you want it to be private, send out invitations.

Citizens should be outraged by these actions. Our democracy depends on openness and transparency. When politicians try to thwart reporters who are just doing their jobs, they exude vapors of tyranny.