President Obama once said that he was going to have the most transparent administration in presidential history, but according to a report by the Associated Press, media muzzling is at an all-time high. It seems that rather than opening the doors for the public to see what their elected officials are up to in Washington, the political powers-that-be have decided there is a lot about government business the American people do not need to know.
According to the Associated Press, the number of legal exemptions cited for withholding information has risen dramatically in the past year, and the Obama administration has refused to turn over files a record number of times. The Associated Press said that much of the information that has been requested is of high value, which is why they believe people have a right to know about it. The analysis also contained evidence that many of the government organizations approached by the media were in no hurry to answer requests.
The Associated Press report states that the government withheld information 8,496 times, which is strong proof that muzzling the media is definitely at an all-time high, and seems to insinuate that the Obama administration is concerned about certain pieces of data getting into the hands of the public. But the censorship does not end there.
Much of the material that has been turned over to the media by the government has been heavily redacted, with whole paragraphs of information missing. Granted, one can understand why personal information such as phone numbers and addresses would be removed from sensitive materials, but why, if transparency is a major priority, would so much material be removed from the files? Of course, the materials are primarily censored due to “national security” reasons, as cited by the government, but what exactly constitutes a matter of national security? Who decides what those standards are?
One of the most important reasons for the existence of the media and organizations like the Associated Press is to help hold the government accountable for its actions. When things are done under cover of shadow, it is much easier for the government to get away with violating the constitutional rights of the American people. A good example of this is the NSA spying scandal. Millions of people have had their Fourth Amendment right violated by the government without their consent or knowledge, under the guise of “national security.” These activities were conducted in secret, and until information was leaked to the media, no one knew they were being spied on and being treated as terrorists and criminals.
The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to free speech and freedom of the press. These rights are a key part of the foundation that makes a free society. When the government tries to control the flow of information its citizens receive, it almost always means something dirty is being covered up, and what is being hidden from the public is typically a trampling of their civil liberties. Government-controlled media and information is the hallmark of a fascist society, not one that encourages and celebrates liberty and personal responsibility.
Hopefully, actions will be taken to discourage the Obama administration from muzzling the media, and the free flow of information will be at an all-time high on the next Associated Press report.
Opinion by Michael Cantrell