Daschle Tells Editors To Fight Press Freedom Curbs

By: Joe Strupp

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle warned newspaper editors Wednesday to be on guard in the coming months against government efforts to censor news or limit access to information, while praising the editors for stepping up to cover the Sept. 11 attacks and the ongoing war against terrorism.

“You’ve helped us understand more fully what and who we lost on that terrible morning,” Daschle told the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) annual convention being held here this week. “You’ve helped us to begin to see how Sept. 11 could have happened and what we need to do now to prevent such monstrous attacks in the future.”

But Daschle urged editors to be aware of efforts to restrict press freedom under the guise of protecting national security. He cited the upcoming report to the Senate Intelligence Committee from Attorney General John Ashcroft, expected May 1, that will lay out the Bush administration’s proposed restrictions on information access.

“Without the pioneering policy work and tireless advocacy of America’s newspaper editors, we would not have the Freedom of Information Act,” Daschle said. “It has made a huge contribution to our democracy, and it should not be curtailed.”

Daschle also warned editors to defend against likely proposals to criminalize leaks of all classified information. “We already have laws against leaking information that is truly related to national security,” he said. “An official secrets act is much broader and more dangerous. It would have a chilling effect on public debate of important issues.”

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