Related Practices

War, Wisdom, and Freedom of the Press (Communications Lawyer)

December 1, 2002

Communications Lawyer

Specifically, David J. Bodney cites President Bush's recent speech to media executives, where he called upon news organizations to elevate the national interest when considering what stories, clips and facts to publish.  Mr. Bodney also discusses the First Amendment topic theoretically, observing that "the time is ripe for an assessment of the media's ability to adapt to the demands of the government's campaign against international terrorism."  He agrees with the President's request that restraint be exercised, and justifies that request by citing Near v. Minnesota, a prior restraint case that declared prior restraint, in most circumstances, to be an unconstitutional limit on the press' First Amendment rights.  But Mr. Bodney also cites the case for the hypothetical exception it provides in times of war: "no one would question but that a government might prevent...the publication of the sailing dates of transports or the number and location of troops."  In order to properly make use of that exception, he observes what both sides need to do to make that kind of relationship work: "trust is an essential ingredient in the relationship between government and the media, especially in times of war...[when] there is precious little room for abuse of that trust on either side."  Mr. Bodney concludes with a warning for both sides and describes the necessary balance to achieve a full assault on international terrorism, without compromising the freedoms we are fighting to protect.  He says, "the press can afford to be thoughtful about what it publishes...[and] our leaders must be careful about their choice of words and must take pains not to devalue the national security by habitually invoking it."