Securing Press Freedom for All

Just days after news broke that the Justice Department had secretly obtained AP journalists’ phone records as part of its ongoing crackdown on leaks, the New Yorker released a new tool — Strongbox— to enable people to safely and securely leak electronic files. The late Aaron Swartz largely built the system (for a good discussion of its strengths and weaknesses, see here, here and here).

Meanwhile, Wired has “Hear Ye, Future Deep Throats: This Is How to Leak to the Press” — a post offering a terrific set of recommendations for leaking via email, phone or postal mail.

And in Slate, Dan Gillmor has “How Journalists Can Protect Themselves from the U.S. Government,” which also has a range of useful tips and links.

If the title of Gillmor’s post doesn’t give you pause regarding the state of press freedom in America, this paragraph should stop you in your tracks:

It’s time now for U.S. media companies and individual bloggers alike to recognize that they live in an environment in which their own government — not to mention criminal or corporate hackers — may well be using all of the tools at its considerable disposal, legal or not, to spy on them. They will increasingly need to practice their craft here at home as if they were independent journalists or dissidents living under an authoritarian regime.

Members of the professional press are not the only ones who should be changing their approach. Given how many people are taking up the tools of media making and journalism, we all need to learn how to report and create media safely.

Two years ago, after police around the U.S. arrested more than 100 journalists, primarily at Occupy protests, the country plummeted to 47 in global press freedom rankings. This year we improved only marginally.

This is the world we live in.

I’m glad to see journalist security getting the attention it is, but we shouldn’t just accept and adapt to this new world of surveillance and eroding rights. We need the press to fight back on these encroachments, but we can’t leave it up to journalists alone. We all have a stake in this issue — as media makers, news consumers and members of the public — and we need to begin building a broad-based movement for media rights.