Democrats are attempting to censor conservative media outlets in "an affront to the First Amendment," as they seek to "chill" free speech and are "intimidating their distributors," says Richard Kaplar, president of The Media Institute.
"The letter from two members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to several cable, satellite, and streaming services demanding that they explain their moral or ethical principles in deciding which channels to carry, and that these content distributors explain why they plan to continue carrying certain news channels, is an affront to the First Amendment," Kaplar, who leads the nonprofit journalism research foundation, wrote in a statement Tuesday.
"This can be seen as nothing other than an attempt by government officials to chill the speech of certain news outlets by intimidating their distributors," he added.
Kaplar's statement was issued as a rebuke to Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., who targeted conservative-leaning outlets, including Fox News, Newsmax, and OANN, in a letter to distributors Comcast, AT&T, Spectrum, Dish, Verizon, Cox, and Altice.
"The spread of misinformation and disinformation in society is a legitimate concern, but this concern must be addressed in ways that do not run afoul of the First Amendment," Kaplar's statement continued. "It is not the place of legislators, either by virtue of the First Amendment or the Communications Act, to attempt to control the content of media outlets."
Former Harvard Law professor and civil liberties expert Alan Dershowitz likened the House Democrats' efforts to “McCarthyism” on Newsmax TV's "American Agenda."
"What they're doing is they're taking the playbook right out of [Sen.] Joe McCarthy [R,Wis.,] in the 1950s," Dershowitz said.
"McCarthy and people from the House Un-American Activities Committee would write letters to TV networks saying exactly what this letter said: 'Why are you having so-and-so on the air? He was once a communist? Why are you having so-and-so? He once represented a communist. He once went to a meeting.'
"So they establish what was then-called 'red channels,' a book, a blacklist, of any television stations that dared to have anybody from the Left on the air."
Lawyer, journalist, and free-press advocate Glenn Greenwald, who famously published the Edward Snowden documents that exposed the U.S. international surveillance program, said House Democrats are "assaulting core press freedoms."
"Not even two months into their reign as the majority party that controls the White House and both houses of Congress, key Democrats have made clear that one of their top priorities is censorship of divergent voices," Greenwald wrote in a blog post Tuesday.
"Since when is it the role of the U.S. government to arbitrate and enforce precepts of 'journalistic integrity'?” he continued.
"Unless you believe in the right of the government to regulate and control what the press says — a power which the First Amendment explicitly prohibits — how can anyone be comfortable with members of Congress arrogating unto themselves the power to dictate what media outlets are permitted to report and control how they discuss and analyze the news of the day?
"But what House Democrats are doing here is far more insidious than what is revealed by that creepy official announcement."
Greenwald also assailed the left-wing media establishment for staying silent on freedom of the press after years of criticizing former President Donald Trump for allegedly putting it at risk.
"There is not a peep of protest from any liberal journalists," Greenwald wrote. "Do any of the people who spent four years pretending to care so deeply about the vital role of press freedom have anything to say about this full frontal attack by the majority party in Washington on news outlets opposed to their political agenda and ideology?
There have been several other forceful denunciations of the Dems' initiative.
One critic is Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr. He called it a blatant attempt at censorship, urging fellow commissioners to join him in condemning the effort.
TVTechnology.com quoted Carr, a critic of media efforts to quiet conservative thought, as saying that "the Democrats are sending a message that is as clear as it is troubling — these regulated entities will pay a price if the targeted newsrooms do not conform to Democrats’ preferred political narratives."
In a statement, libertarian Reason.com reported, Fox News said that "for individual members of Congress to highlight political speech they do not like and demand cable distributors engage in viewpoint discrimination sets a terrible precedent."
Newsmax defended its election coverage as accurate and called the letter an “attack on free speech.”
Congressional Republicans tell Newsmax that the letter’s authors, Eshoo and McNerney, both represent Silicon Valley. They note the letter avoids any discussion of social media and the role companies like Facebook and Twitter have played in spreading disinformation.
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