United States

A broad range of issues have impacted the media in the United States this year, both new and old. Emerging digital and social media practices have raised a host of new issues, from internet regulation to citizen journalism. More traditional issues, such as physical attacks on journalists, and political efforts to silence media outlets have occurred. The Wikileaks case continues to divide the media community. In September the controversial whistle-blower site released its entire trove of 251,287 leaked U.S. embassy cables, uncensored, prompting newspapers and journalistic groups to criticize the move. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier suspected of providing classified government documents published by WikiLeaks, is being held in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He's facing more than a dozen charges and could be sentenced to life in prison. Army officials say Manning is accused of using unauthorized software on government computers to extract classified information, illegally download it and transmit the data for public release by what the Army has termed "the enemy." The charge sheets do not make any mention of either WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange. Journalists who cover the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, mobilized in protest to the financial system and the greed of the banks, begun on September 17, denounced restrictions on information and arrests in October, particularly in New York, where the police department considers journalists to be those holding a press pass issued by the police, thereby generating discussions on independent blogs. At the beginning of October, Natasha Lennard, an independent journalist and collaborator on a blog run by the New York Times, was detained for several hours due to the fact that she did not hold a pass authorized by the police; the same thing happened to |Kristen Gwynne of the web magazine AlterNet. Also during those demonstrations, which extended to Washington and other cities in the country, John Farley, a journalist from the magazine MetroFocus, was arrested and released eight hours later, while some other journalists including Dick Brennan and Roy Isen from channel Fox 5, were attacked. Following on the hacking scandal at London-based News Corp over the summer, long-time opponents of concentrated media ownership in the U.S. are questioning whether News Corp should be allowed keep its 27 broadcast TV licenses and are calling for rules to diversify media ownership. The Florida governor’s office is under pressure to withdraw or amend a measure curbing access to details of murders which press freedom groups say undermine the media’s ability to investigate and the public’s right to know the truth about such crimes. The new law, enacted on 2 June and banning release of photos, videos or recordings connected with a murder, had exacerbated already tense relations between the Florida media and the governor’s office. Organizations representing booksellers, librarians, publishers and authors expressed frustration and disappointment at the decision by Congress in May to re-authorize the expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act for four years without restoring the safeguards protecting the privacy of bookstore and library records that were eliminated when the Patriot Act was passed in 2001. The Patriot Act gives the government the right to secretly search the records of anyone who is "relevant" to a terrorism investigation. However, Attorney General Eric Holder has promised the government would voluntarily restrict its searches of bookstores and libraries to the records of people who are actually suspected of terrorism and people who are known to them. The editor of a political newsletter about Zimbabwe, The Insider, edited by veteran journalist Charles Rukuni, and founded in 1990, complains that his US-hosted website was taken down due to complaints by a critic of his publication. Rukuni's site has been one of the only outlets for investigative journalism in the country. Rukuni says he received an email from his U.S. Web host, Powweb, stating that a copyright claim had been made on some of Rukuni's articles. U.S. law grants hosting services sufficient freedom from liability so that they can host content without self-censorship. But Rukini’s suggests that online journalists may remain vulnerable to their competitors or critics throwing them offline without a court order based on claims of copyright violation. The New York Times reporter James Risen was served with a subpoena on 23 May from the Department of Justice to testify at former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling’s trial on a criminal charge of disclosing restricted information to reporters. It is the fourth time he has been subpoenaed. The Department of Justice says Risen is a witness in the Sterling case and must reveal his sources and information to the jury. If he refuses, he could go to prison for contempt of court. Supporters of Risen say the case highlights the need for a federal shield law to protect reporters from being forced to reveal their sources. Three U.S. journalists are to receive a $100,000 settlement for their arrests during the 2008 Republican National Convention. Journalist Amy Goodman, host of the syndicated "Democracy Now!" radio program, and producers Nicole Salazaar and Sharif Abdel Kouddous, along with about 40 or 50 other journalists and 800 demonstrators and bystanders, were arrested while covering protests outside the convention in St. Paul, Minn. All charges against the journalists since have been dropped, but Goodman and her colleagues sued in 2010 over the alleged police crackdown on journalists. As part of the settlement, the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis agreed to pay a combined $90,000, and the U.S. government will pay $10,000, reported the Pioneer Press. The two cities also will develop a policy and training for police officers to avoid stepping on the First Amendment rights of journalists covering protests. Three guilty verdicts were handed down June 9 in the murder case of Chauncey Bailey, a reporter and editor for the Oakland Post who was gunned down as he walked to work on Aug. 2, 2007. Two were later sentenced to life imprisonment without parole and the third to 25 years in prisson. Tony Overman, a photojournalist at The Olympian newspaper in Olympia, WA, had his tires slashed and “snitch” spray-painted on his pickup truck, apparently over pictures of anarchist protesters. The words “Overman snitch” were also spray-painted at the newspaper's offices, and $11,000 in damage was done to the building. Republican Presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain joined the boycott of the leading US Spanish-language TV network that was organized by Florida party lawmakers in a show of solidarity with federal Senator Marco Rubio. The controversy arose after Rubio’s office accused Miami-based Univisión Networks of pressuring him to agree to take part in a program to discuss the issue of migration to the United States in exchange for softening a journalistic investigation concerning his brother-in-law, Orlando Cicilia, convicted in a 1987 drug trafficking case. Univisión has denied the accusation. IAPA criticized the boycott, calling it “a thoughtless action that jeopardizes the public’s right to be duly informed.” IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín stated in a letter sent to the candidates that “we are concerned at the damage that this attitude causes in the democratic process that fundamentally requires a full range of measures and information.” The IAPA president was also critical of the demand made by the GOP candidates that Univision fire news editor Isaac Lee as a condition for appearing in the debate. Three Chinese writers who have spent time in prison for articles published online are suing California-based Cisco Systems Inc., for allegedly providing information and technology to Chinese authorities that facilitated the writers' detentions. Cisco flatly denies the allegations. The writers, Du Daobin, Liu Xianbin, and Zhou Yuanzhi, are represented by the Washington-based law firm Ward & Ward. The case was filed in June in U.S. District Court in Maryland against Cisco and a number of its executives. All three writers have endured persecution for expressing their views online. The lawsuit seeks to prove that Cisco is implicated in this persecution. The law claims that internal documents detail the company's development and implementation of the Golden Shield censorship system for the Chinese Communist Party. Besides blocking content, the system provides "the means to identify and locate Internet users instantaneously," the lawsuit alleges. The plaintiffs also claim there is evidence that Cisco created an ‘Advanced Service Team’ that was dedicated to training officials of the Chinese Communist Party to use Cisco products to these ends. In the past, other U.S.-based corporations have faced criticism for cooperating with the Chinese government, including Yahoo, Google and Microsoft. In 2008, Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft joined with human rights organizations, academics, and investors to form the Global Network Initiative, adopting principles to protect online privacy and free expression. The new U.S. rules on Net Neutrality, which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved on 21 December 2010, were finally published in the Federal Register (the federal government’s official journal) on 23 September and will take effect on 20 November. The FCC is reinforcing several Net Neutrality principles. It says, for example that it aims to “preserve the Internet as an open platform for innovation, investment, job creation, economic growth, competition, and free expression.” The FCC has banned the filtering of “lawful” content but allows the blocking of “unlawful” websites and peer-to-peer transmission. Internet Service Providers will not be able to adjust charges to consumers according to bandwidth use and will have to be more transparent about their network management practices. ISPs keep the right to increase the bandwidth available to companies that need it to send bandwidth-heavy content. Critics say the new rules fail to guarantee the Internet’s universality and neutrality by favoring those commercial interests that need higher bandwidth. Several broadband operators have announced that they will file legal challenges to the FCC’s rules, including Verizon, MetroPCS and the non-profit organization Free Press. Americans spend only a fraction of their time online with news in comparison with social networks, and the next generation of online users is relying on social media and television for their news. One report from Nielsen, "State of the Media: The Social Media Report," found that people in the US spend 22.5% of their Internet time on social networks and blogs, and just 2.6% on news.