May 16, 2017; Fortune
“Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.”
NPQ published a newswire yesterday that suggested that it was up to nonprofits to defend our basic democratic freedoms, including freedom of the press. Yesterday, we were reminded of the importance of that as the substance of a meeting between Trump and former FBI Director James Comey was covered in the New York Times. That report revealed that Trump urged Comey to consider imprisoning journalists who report stories on the basis of leaks of classified material. This apparently occurred at the same time he suggested that Comey help get the Flynn investigation shut down.
Today, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press responded.
“The comments attributed to President Trump cross a dangerous line. But no president gets to jail journalists. Reporters are protected by judges and juries, by a Congress that relies on them to stay informed, and by a Justice Department that for decades has honored the role of a free press by spurning prosecutions of journalists for publishing leaks of classified information,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Bruce Brown. “Comments such as these, emerging in the way they did, only remind us that every day public servants are reaching out to reporters to ensure the public is aware of the risks today to rule of law in this country. The president’s remarks should not intimidate the press but inspire it.”
NPQ has pointed out many times that our democratic freedoms, under constant attack during this administration, depend in part on a free press. Imagine if the comments so blithely thrown out about the press were comments about nonprofits. Would we feel threatened as a sector? Should nonprofits be more vocal in protecting our partners in democracy?—Ruth McCambridge