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Panel discussion on press freedom to be held at ASU Cronkite School

portrait of ASU journalism professor Leonard Downie Jr.
April 01, 2014

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Bloomberg News are hosting a panel discussion at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University on the threats to press freedom posed by the Obama administration and the National Security Agency.

The discussion, “Attacks on the Press: Leak Prosecutions and Digital Surveillance,” features former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr., the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Cronkite School, and CPJ Internet advocacy coordinator Geoffrey King. The moderator is Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Oldham.

The April 8 discussion starts at 7 p.m. in the Cronkite School’s First Amendment Forum on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus. A 6:30 p.m. welcome reception will precede the discussion. The event is free and open to the public.

The panel will explore the U.S. government’s aggressive war on leaks and digital surveillance programs, and its impact on journalists. The event follows the release of two major CPJ reports covering press freedom.

In February, CPJ published its annual comprehensive assessment, “Attacks on the Press,” which describes the threats to press freedom and explores strategies to safeguard the free flow of information around the world. King contributed an in-depth piece on the NSA’s potential to disrupt the stream of information, putting journalists and their sources under a cloud of suspicion.

“Technology is empowering journalism by enhancing reporters’ ability to gather, analyze and disseminate information in ways that were not previously possible,” King said. “At the same time, this increasing interconnectedness means governments can reach deep into the lives of journalists and sources – in secret, and on a mass scale. In light of these capabilities – and the NSA is on the leading edge of them – it is crucial that journalists understand the risks they face, as well as how to mitigate them.”

In October 2013, Downie led a major CPJ investigation into the U.S. government’s treatment of reporters. In "The Obama Administration and the Press: Leak Investigations and Surveillance in Post-9/11 America," Downie reported that the Obama administration’s prosecution of suspected leakers, combined with broad electronic surveillance programs, have left government officials wary of talking to the press.

“The Obama administration's crackdown on government sources of information for the press, and the NSA's ability to monitor the communications of journalists and their sources greatly endanger the most important role of the press: holding those with power accountable to the rest of us in a democratic society,” Downie said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide and defends the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. The organization ensures the free flow of news and commentary by taking action wherever journalists are attacked, imprisoned, killed, kidnapped, threatened, censored or harassed.

With more than 15,000 employees in 192 locations, Bloomberg News delivers business and financial information, news and insight around the world, connecting influential decision-makers to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas.