When running for president in 2008, Senator Obama promised the most transparent administration in history. This week, that very administration was awarded three awards for violations of free speech.
The annual Jefferson Muzzle awards, presented by the Thomas Jefferson Center for Protection and Free Expression, are aimed to “draw national attention to abridgments of free speech and press and, at the same time, foster an appreciation for those tenets of the First Amendment.”
President Obama’s Department of Justice, White House Press Office and National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security were each awarded a Muzzle for 2014.
The DOJ’s offence is for aggressively “pursuing legal action against those who leak classified information,” the website writes.
In particular, the department has gone after members of the press, in what President of the Associated Press Gary Pruitt,called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
The White House Press Office, on the other hand, has been obstructionist in allowing the access of cameras inside the White House.
Last November, a group of 38 news outlets teamed up to protest the Obama White House’s policy on photojournalists.
“[J]ournalists are routinely prevented from taking pictures of President Obama while he is performing his official duties because the White House categorizes such events as ‘private,’ thereby baring media access. Then, adding insult to injury, the White House releases official photographs of these supposedly private affairs to millions of followers across various social media platforms,” the TJC writes.
“The press thinks that this is ridiculous because this is really just a form of propaganda rather than actual coverage of the president,” Director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, Josh Wheeler, told Voice of Russia this week, joking that “the president’s office running their own press release and then expecting you to print it.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s notable free speech violation was the lawsuit between t-shirt creator Dan McCall and the federal department.
McCall made shirts with phrases like “National Security Agency: Spying On You Since 1952,” much to the ire of the NSA. DHS was also a subject of his mockery. Both the NSA and DHS sent McCall a cease and desist letter.
“In response to the cease and desist letters, Zazzle removed the contested products from its website for the rest of 2011, and all of 2012-13 effectively denying McCall any income from the designs during that period. Represented by Paul Levy of Public Citizen Litigation Group, McCall filed a lawsuit in October 2013 against the NSA and DHS asserting his First Amendment right to parody the two agencies in the manner that he had,” the TJC explains.
This year, the lawsuit was finally dropped.