Sen. Feinstein Wants to Strip Independent Journalists’ Rights

Freedom of the press may be one of the founding principles of the United States, but Senator Dianne Feinstein is on a mission to limit these powers.  The fourth-term California Democrat has proposed an amendment to narrow the definition of journalism and give privileges to only those she deems “real reporters.”

Currently, most states have shield laws designed to protect journalists, but no such laws exist on a federal level. Recently, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved national shield laws, but Feinstein was unhappy with how broadly journalist could be interpreted and wrote up an amendment to address her personal concerns.

Feinstein discusses her amendment in a Senate meeting.

Feinstein’s suggestion is blatantly unconstitutional. The First Amendment is clear: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” yet here is a member of Congress trying to do precisely that. By applying a strict definition to who can be considered a journalist, Feinstein is not only discrediting, but also destructing independent and citizen journalism.

Shield laws allow reporters to protect their sources and prevent them from having to testify against them in court. These laws are safeguards that ensure critical news is disseminated and the populace remains informed without government interference.

Feinstein seems chiefly concerned with affiliates of Wikileaks and other such agencies calling themselves journalists. She has been one of the most vocal Senators in calling for prosecuting Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden for espionage. Evidently, publicizing some of the most critical information of our time that other more “reputable” agencies wouldn’t touch does not count as an act of journalism, particularly when the leaked info makes Feinstein look bad.

Indeed, despite alleging that she wants to protect only “legitimate journalists,” Feinstein has a history of showing no respect for legitimate journalists. On a trip to China while serving as San Francisco’s mayor, Feinstein told Evelyn Hsu, an American reporter, that she preferred Chinese reporters, explaining, “They just write down what we say.

Feinstein’s limited definition of a journalist is “someone who is an employee, agent, or independent contractor for a media entity.” In an act of compromise, she did agree to take out the word “salaried” from her description of a journalist, though she called it an “unnecessary worry.” From my vantage point, restricting “real” reporting to jobs paid for by corporate entities is hardly an illegitimate concern.

How many people even trust mainstream media anymore? Print publishing is slowly dying, while cable news has devolved into corporate-sponsored propaganda disguised as “infotainment.” For crying out loud, MSNBC reporter Chuck Todd just told us that it isn’t his job to expose political lies. If Feinstein’s mission is to limit freedoms of the press to entities in the pocket of the powerful and wealthy, the real goal must be to further obscure the truth… while holding those who actually report the truth responsible for daring to expose it.

In her explanation for redefining journalists, Feinstein asks, “Should this privilege apply to anyone? To a 17-year-old who drops out of high school, buys a website for $5, and starts a blog?” Her comment reeks of classism and elitism, as if an average young citizen couldn’t offer valuable information to the public.

The fact is we need citizen journalists, independent media outlets and bloggers like those here at more than ever. We need reporters who challenge authority, conduct actual investigations, cover all stories and spread the truth. Just because what these journalists reveal might be a little too “real” for Feinstein doesn’t make their work any less “real.”

Sign this petition to tell Dianne Feinstein to stop attempting to dismantle the First Amendment. A free press is essential to maintaining a healthy democracy free of corruption.

Photo Credit: David Lee


Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Deborah W.
Deborah W3 years ago

And who among us is in a position to judge another? Everyone? No one? Cat's out of the bag, allowed to run unchecked and unaddressed for so long that now it's just another issue to banter about over coffee.

Del Rykert
Del R4 years ago

Anytime anyone wants to squash a story it normally is because they don't like the sting of truth that goes with it. If any idea or story can't stand the sting of review then the reporter must be doing a darn good job. Slander laws protect people from lies so why hide behind new rules unless some can't handle being under the microscope. Shame so many swallow her rhetoric as gospel and want to give her pats on the back for great job. Time for all politcians to get the same scrutiny in both parties and both house including the WHITE one. Their actions and record should always be up for public review and access.. Mine was while working by the higher adminstration. Should be no different for anyone in any job. Especially politicans.

Matt L.
Maitreya L4 years ago

So basically she just wants journalists who write down what she tells them. The corporate media already pretty much does that, so she wants to prevent anyone else from exposing government crimes or asking real questions. I hope California votes this moron out of office.

Cheryl Erland
Cheryl Erland4 years ago

This infuriates me. The last amendment to the bill is written to prevent any newcomer who isn't affiliated with a mainstream news source to be cut off before he/she begins. It's an example of that dilemma facing young people looking for work or credit and being told they don't qualify because they have no experience/other credit. This is much worse, in my opinion, because it stands to prevent the very group of people most likely to turn a doomed system around to one that works and will enable us to prosper. If I were one of these "youngsters", I'd be bloody furious because they are being charged with the huge task of cleaning up the mess that has been made for them by older generations while, at the same time, having their hands tied by those very generations to do anything about it. This is stupidity at its most dangerous.
I'm also concerned about the term "bona fide". I take it that Ms. Feinstein means a journalist is required to have a degree or diploma to be counted in these ranks. That's just nonsense. While it is certainly necessary at times for schooling to be a requirement (I wouldn't, for example, want a self appointed surgeon putting me under the knife), this is not one of those times. A good journalist is one who writes clearly and checks his/her sources and facts. God knows that isn't the case right called bona fide journalists have been proven to report as news, press releases - written verbatim;

Harley Williams
Harley W4 years ago

While Republicans get a lot of publicity for being rotten. It seems some Democrats are just as bad they just try to look better.

I want reporters to go after the news.

Angelus Silesius
Angelus S4 years ago

Is it ever good to suppress the truth?

Mick P.
Mick P.4 years ago

"There WERE plenty of channels he/she could have gone through & he/she chose NOT to go through them"
Ever ask yourself WHY he didn't go through them? Well people who actually TRIED going through channels to say it's because they don't work. In fact part of the reason he did what he did was that he DID attempt to go through channels, and was told (illegally) to shut up. The Obusha administration does not want reports of abuses going up through proper channels.

Mick P.
Mick P.4 years ago

Feinstein has ALWAYS been on the side of evil.

Donna Ferguson
Donna F4 years ago