'Aggressive war on leaks' hitting press freedom

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 8:48am

The US government's aggressive prosecution of leaks and efforts to control information is having a chilling effect on journalists and government whistle-blowers, says a report released yesterday on US press freedoms under the Obama administration.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, in a report based on interviews of experienced news professionals, said Obama's actions had been in sharp contradiction to his promise of transparency and open government.

"Journalists and transparency advocates say the White House curbs routine disclosure of information and deploys its own media to evade scrutiny by the press," said the report by former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie. "Aggressive prosecution of leakers of classified information and broad electronic surveillance programmes deter government sources from speaking to journalists."

Downie said the "war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I've seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post's investigation of Watergate". He said the 30 journalists he interviewed at a variety of news organisations "could not remember any precedent".

The report on the US is unusual for the press freedom group, which has reported this year on China, Myanmar, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, and Tanzania. The only time the US has been the subject of a report was in 1994.

However, the crackdown has failed to silence Brazil-based US reporter Glenn Greenwald , who said he would publish documents from intelligence leaker Edward Snowden focused on France and Spain.

Testifying before a Brazilian congressional panel, Greenwald accused Washington of waging a "war against jourmnalism".