May 20, 2003
New Reason Column From Me -...
New Reason Column From Me -- Keeping Journalists Out: Homeland Security Saved From Insidious European Tech Reporters: More about those six French journalists kicked out of LAX, changes in visa enforcement, and possible implications on Americans working abroad.
Posted by at May 20, 2003 08:22 PM
Interesting article. As my wife is a journalist, I've heard of the lettre d'accreditation system. I've always assumed it was required only to settle in a foreign country for an extended period of time (as a correspondant).
My first reaction was to think of some french bashing from the LAX immigration officiers, but it looks worse than this. I'd love to read some follow-up on this.
I think you put your finger on the problem, when you say:
"Enforcing the regulation also puts Homeland Security Officials in the curious position of deciding who is and is not a "journalist." Does writing personal travel stories on a website count, if your audience occasionally leaves you tips?"
So, how does anyone, in this day of blogger ubiquity, not potentially qualify as a "journalist"?
Are press passes to events to be issued to all who want to so qualify themselves, based on Google/Lexis/Nexis hits? If the qualifying datum is the publication written for, how difficult would it have been for an editor to issue the necessary document, and go through the additional visa step? What qualifies someone to get past the gatekeeper to the press box/press events? Is it too much to ask that some qualification is necessary, in order to gain access to the host country, if the priveleges afforded a Journalist are to be protected? Or maybe there shouldn't be any?
Are journalists credentialed members of a profession, subject to a corresponding professional responsibility, or just every day blokes who sometimes get paid to write up their observations? I know your position on the professionalism aspects of Journalism, but it differs from the Columbia school, and, I suspect, tho could be wrong, Journalists Without Borders.
As you say, this may just be a particular case of overenthusiasm for enforcement of rules, or maybe a message that those responsible for implementing rules will no longer be lax about them, when it comes to borders. Dunno, really. It just seems to me, that individuals, qualifying themselves as journalists, being unaware, or contemptuous (based on expectations of lax enforcement) of the responsibilitites and rules that go with the title, haven't earned any kind of martyr status, especially when, as you noted, there would have been no problem with entry, on "business or pleasure" grounds, if there hadn't been an expectation of the added prestige, or privelege that goes with the title.
Then again, my general (and recently reinforced) cynicism toward the fourth estate may be coloring my thoughts.
Journalists without Borders gets a lions share of their funding from the EU and much of the rest from UNESCO. They bad mouth our country and press, ranking us 17th in terms of press freedom behind France, Iceland (you have to be kidding), Norway?? etc. They are slso the people accusing the U.S. military of shooting at journalists---the ones in the Palestine Hotel who were taking bribes from Saddam or bribing Saddam and who allowed snipers into the hotel to shoot at our troops; to be fair most were not involved in that but four of them were. This is an anti-American organization. They want anybody who CLAIMS to be a journalist into any country they choose. We choose to live, thank you very much. If you read the source story most of the French Journalists had no press visas at all.
Same old shit, but it now worsens. Ambiguous law selectively enforced for protectionist reasons.
Would love to know if there were any other 'journalists' from other nations given this shabby, chilling, treatment.
I seem to notice lately that anyone that is critical of the US is called anti-American. If Reporters Without Borders has ranked The Us 17th in terms of press freedom I am sure there is merit to their rating.
Maybe we would have let them in if they were willing to work for $5 a day or if Tyson Foods had recruited them to come here.
BTW, a British journalist wrote me & said at least two of his colleagues had been sent home as well.
Howard -- You may be surprised that Reporters Without Borders is doing more than any organization I'm aware of to publicize & protest Castro's crackdown on journalists, and provide aid to the families of the victims. Also, the point is that journalists are suddenly being treated as a *special class* of humans not eligible for the Visa Waiver (whereas P.R. people who came through the border at the exact same time, saying that they were planning to work at the exact same event, were let through with a smile). This has been statutorily true for years, but never enforced, partially because A) it's ridiculous, and B) it would potentially restrict American journalists from reporting around the world.