Democratic senator Dick Durbin wants the United States to pass a law that, according to O’Dwyer’s PR, “would define a journalist as someone who is on the payroll of an established media organization”.
Crazy, if you ask me. As an Englishman, the notion of politicians deciding who may or may not be as a journalist is offensive. The Licensing of the Press Act 1662, an obnoxious piece of English legislation, meant that printing presses could not be set up without the permission of a Royal Charter body.
As Wikipedia explains: “A king’s messenger had power by warrant of the king or a secretary of state to enter and search for unlicensed presses and printing. Severe penalties by fine and imprisonment were denounced against offenders.”
The legislation also banned the importation of any printed material from outside of England without the special permission of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of London.
Thankfully, in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights, the Commons refused to renew the legislation and we have had a free press ever since. And for the press or the media to genuinely be free, the same rights have to be available whether you are old or new, in print or online.
Dick Durbin is right when he says that journalists need to be able to protect sources. But defining the media so narrowly so as to only incorporate established players is ludicrous.