Date: Mon, 5 Feb 1996 14:17:22 -0500 From: Vigdor Schreibman - FINS <firstname.lastname@example.org> Message-Id: <199602051917.OAA24014@access2.digex.net> To: email@example.com Subject: Cleansing of the Press POLITICAL "CLEANSING" OF THE PRESS--IN CONGRESS by Vigdor Schreibman * In Congress, some strategically placed persons say, "freedom of the press is irrelevant." This is a direct quote! Amazingly, the statement comes not from rough members of Congress or some cabal of outsiders, but from people like Rick Maze, a reporter for the Army Times and a member of the Executive Committee of Correspondents, and from other key officials of the Periodical Press Galleries at the US Capitol. The statement was made to this writer, editor and publisher of FINS, in an attempt to justify management of the process of accreditation for members of the press, by arbitrarily disregarding settled First Amendment principles. FINS publishes over the Internet a biweekly news column that specializes in communicating the emerging philosophy of the Information Age. FINS is well know as a critic of the telecom industry for their lobbying and influence peddling in Congress, which have locked the public interest community out of the legislative process related to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 [S.652], passed by Congress Feb 1. FINS applied for membership in the Periodical Press Galleries last August. If approved, FINS would be the first all-electronic news organ admitted to membership in the Press Galleries. On Mon Jan 29th, FINS was informed by David Holmes, Gallery Superintendent that the application was denied. In making their decision the Executive Committee of Correspondents who manage the accreditation process construed the Press Galleries rules under a sophisticated yet merely parochial culture, arbitrarily disregarding First Amendment doctrines of freedom of the press. They claim, for instance, that FINS does not qualify because it is a one-man publication. Admittedly, I.F. Stone, and other commentators who managed one-man publications--did qualify. They also claim that the editor and publisher of FINS cannot use his retirement income to help sustain FINS. Finally, they claim that FINS is not qualified because it is only a "hobby." Mega-corporations are facilitated to use their own capital and income to inculcate the global society with business propaganda--but a citizen reporter will be constrained from utilizing his meager retirement income to serve the cause of liberty. The Wall Street Journal, a member of the Press Galleries, publishes verbatim the press releases from corporations for as much as 50% of the editorial content of that newspaper, whereas, FINS takes pride in violating with impunity the tyrannical norms of corporate domination. The doctrine of freedom of the press in the Periodical Press Galleries was sustained in an opinion issued by the US District Court in _Consumers Union of United States, Inc. v. Periodical Correspondents Ass_, 365 F.Supp 18 (D. DC 1973) (Gesell, DJ). The case was reversed on other grounds reported in 515 F.2d 1341 (1975). In the latter case the Court held that rule making in Congress was committed to the jurisdiction of Congress. Nevertheless, the Appellate Court did not consider the Constitutional free press issue. That part of the Gesell opinion remains binding, namely, that the free press principles of the Constitution must govern the process, albeit within Congress, of accrediting newsmen. Superintendent Holmes complained to FINS about the _Consumers Union_ opinion, charging that the Press Galleries were not effectively represented in the court proceedings by the US Attorney assigned to the case. Nevertheless, it is simply incredible that any member of the press would treat as irrelevant the doctrine of press freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment with regard to the use of press facilities made available to the news media in Congress. Those officials and newsmen are exercising the same kind of political "cleansing" option that is now going on in the media: Jim Hightower canceled by ABC/Disney; strategist William Kristal hired as a political consultant by ABC/Disney; the giant cable operator TCI imposing a huge rate hike on citizen-oriented 90s channel that is forcing them off the air. Private industry may be free to act in a prejudicial manner to suit its self-interests, but the exercise of such a policy within the very body of Congress concerned with protecting freedom of the press and the right of the people to know about the conduct of their government, is a cause for alarm. Net pundit, Jack Hirshfeld, sent an email message to FINS, Jan 31, observing: If the opinion of the Executive Committee were allowed to stand, a large community of readers would be deprived of an important source of news and information - often the first source, and sometimes the only source. The mainstream press often writes of the "people's right to know." Few, however, act to guarantee that right as consistently as Vigdor Schreibman. Jerry Landy, a writer, teacher on issues relating to mass telecommunications and society at the University of Illinois, and a client of FINS, also sent an email message to FINS, Feb 2, commenting (in part) that "you provide an invaluable resource n o t provided by other services .... I am prepared to do what I can, at the highest levels I can reach, to help reverse the Gallery's decision." FINS has filed an appeal from the decision denying membership in the Press Galleries. Marc Rotenberg, esq., of Washington, DC, will represent FINS in the appeal. ---------- * Vigdor Schreibman, is editor and publisher of the Federal Information News Syndicate (FINS), owner of Fins Information Age e-library at the University of Maryland inforM system, co-founder of The Cyberspace Society, and author of "The Politics of Cyberspace" Journal of Government Information, May/June 1994, pp. 249-280. Schreibman's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.