Monday, June 21, 2004


Why isn't the press defending freedom of the press? (Revisited)

Referencing a previous post, a friend and reader, Louise Kienast, emailed me this:
I was listening this morning to C-Span “House hearing on Iraqi perceptions of U.S. actions."1 I became more interested when they began discussing shutting down Muqtada al-Sadr’s newspaper. The following remark by Rich Galen, former Director of Strategic Media Coalition Provisional Authority got my attention since you had written about this topic (Why isn't the press defending freedom of the press?):
There is no shortage of public discourse, at least in Baghdad, in terms of varying points of view. We do draw the line, even in our country, at shouting fire in a movie theater. That does not fall into free speech.
The point is that this is the take they have on the topic. I don’t know much about Muqtada al-Sadr or his newspaper, but this is most likely how people will view this issue. How would you respond to that?
Well, we don't just go shutting down newspapers on the government's say-so—at least that's the theory. The old "fire in a crowded theatre" argument requires some proof that actual incitement has occurred.

In my article I quoted Juan Cole, who said,
Many observers in Iraq said that move was a mistake, since no specific violence could be traced to the newspaper
It would seem that the U.S. has taken another preemptive action. No link of which I am aware has been made between Sadr's newspaper and any violent action. Of course, It's impossible to prove that no such linkage exists, because that would be to prove a negative.2

But if we are to close newspapers that encourage violence, what should we do with the newspapers in this country that urged us on to war?

Related post: Allawi stands up for freedom of the press -- yeah, sure


1 Louise says, "If you want to hear the discussion go to House Hearing on Iraqi Perceptions of U.S. Actions [link updated 6/25/04]

Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) chairs a House hearing on Iraqi perceptions of U.S. actions. Douglas Feith and Andrew Natsios are among the witnesses.
6/15/2004: WASHINGTON, DC: 3 hr.
Once the program comes up, (RealPlayer), go to 1:18:09 of the second hearing to hear this discussion (I just moved the button all the way to the end and immediately the second hearing began.) [back]

2 For an interesting discussion of proving a negative, see Richard Carrier's comments. [back]

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