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Freedom of the press?

Posted By Joseph Farah On 05/29/2002 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

That First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution always seemed pretty clear to me. It says what it means and it means what it says. There’s very little ambiguity to be found in it.

Yet, in 2002, a select group of people working under the color of authority of the U.S. Congress continue to make up rules and regulations designed to prohibit WorldNetDaily’s ability to exercise its constitutional rights to carry out its duties as a member of the free press to cover the U.S. Capitol.

That is the only way I can adequately describe the injustice being perpetrated on my news service by the Senate Press Gallery.

Yes, our fight for credentials to gain access to the corridors of power in Washington continues.

In April, I led a delegation of WorldNetDaily senior staffers and our attorney to an appeal hearing of the Gallery’s formal decision to deny us the same credentials it bestows on hundreds of other news organizations – both foreign and domestic. Those accredited range from one-man news agencies to the Associated Press, the largest news-gathering organization in the world.

After a full year of deliberations on our application, WorldNetDaily was denied credentials for two reasons, according to the Gallery:

  • questions arising from the transition of WorldNetDaily from non-profit status in 1997 to for-profit status beginning in 1999;

  • an alleged lack of original content on the largest independent, English-language newssite in the world.

We patiently answered questions from the Gallery at that appeal hearing in the Capitol last month. We patiently explained why the Gallery was wrong in its judgments about WorldNetDaily. And we patiently showed the Gallery that it was exceeding its congressional authority by making such a misguided decision that was clearly based on content discrimination. You can read a transcript of those proceedings for yourself on the Senate Press Gallery’s website.

We all thought we had made progress.

Indeed, in the month-plus that has transpired since the hearing, we have heard little about these old reasons for denial of our application. But last week we received a missive from the Gallery, on the letterhead of the U.S. Congress, suggesting yet a new reason has been discovered for the continued stonewalling of our very simple, straightforward request to be treated equally with other press outlets covering Washington.

Again, more than a year ago, WorldNetDaily Washington Bureau Chief Paul Sperry’s press badge was seized by Capitol police because it had expired. It was the badge he had obtained when he served in the same capacity for Investor’s Business Daily.

This was no secret. The Senate Press Gallery has been aware of this for more than a year. Sperry discussed it openly at our appeal hearing. It was the event that triggered our quest for permanent credentials.

Now, it appears to be the sole, remaining justification for denying our bid.

Here we go again. Have you ever played a game where the rules keep changing? It’s very difficult to win. The target keeps moving. The sand beneath our feet keeps shifting.

This is why I offer this refresher course on the First Amendment. It’s simple, straightforward, eloquent, unambiguous. “Congress shall make no law …”

Why then is this arm of the U.S. Congress, the Senate Press Gallery, continually making new rules to prevent us from exercising our First Amendment rights and duties? Why are our rights being so clearly abridged?

That’s what it comes down to once again.

Is there some noble soul in the U.S. Congress – the Senate or the House – who will come forward to answer this question or to address this injustice? Is there a man or woman in Congress – Democrat, Republican or independent – who still respects the Constitution and will make this fight his or her fight? Is there some member who is not so afraid of a vigilant watchdog press that he or she might actually call these rascals to account?

This is not about my news organization. It’s not about convenience. It’s not about status. It’s not about being a part of the club. Believe me, we do a pretty good job getting stories in spite of the obstacles placed before us. But this is about the First Amendment. And on the First Amendment, I will not yield. I will never give up. How about you?


Read the special report in today’s edition: Senate gallery moves WND ‘goalposts’ again.


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