First they came for the journalist… | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

First they came for the journalist…

Pakistan Press Foundation

A reconstitution of the words of Martin Neimoller rolled around in my head as I lit a flame and prepared to burn my notes from the interview with Mohamed Elhassan. A yellow legal pad contained his thoughts. These thoughts were condensed for the piece on the page last week. I had already memorised a few bits of incomplete information. My mind is that of an investigative and research-oriented journalist. It is imperative that information be archived for use at a later date. But then again, they are coming for the journalist…

What is in my head is my intellectual property. There will be no flash drive, no research notes, nothing to find that is digital. I am done with digital archives. As an ethical journalist I must retain source confidentiality. But more importantly, I must quarantine information that is incomplete, of a sensitive nature, or simply not ready for redistribution to the general public. They are coming for the journalist…

Investigative reporter James Rosen wrote a piece for Fox News that hinged on his ability to communicate with a confidential source. This is how good journalism works. The ability to cultivate and also professionally shield confidential sources is the bedrock of our professional discipline.

The Department of Justice was quite pissed off. An order was executed to vacuum up the personal email and phone records of the reporter. It was only the beginning of misery. The information bandits also swept up additional reporters’ digital trails and the identifiable crumbs from a press empire. They came for the journalist.

The latest alarming news can be found on this link:

I will not be the next Audrey Hudson. Federal agents may execute a false flag operation in a pre-dawn raid. I may face menacing men waving guns and badges. My constitutional rights can be severely abridged and I can be frightened beyond measure. I might even suffer an incontinent episode. But there will be nary a trace of emotional incontinence when holding to my conviction. There will be no display of tears for the anti-constitutionalists. My backbone is titanium.

There will be no files to snatch nor flash drives to pilfer. There will be nothing that allows for the exploitation and/or oppression of a free press. You see here’s the deal. I will not die for my religion. I have never made that vow. I will not die for what is planted squarely in the domain of the unknown. The just live by their faith and leave the rest to Divine Providence. But I damn sure will liberally give of my blood and forfeit my personal possessions for a free press and freedom of expression. These are the constitutional anchors of my soul. I have experienced these blessings as an American. These are immense blessings bestowed under the shadow of constitutional decree. The signatories to the constitution understood the need for a free press. A most prolific statesman, Thomas Jefferson, understood the need to retain his personal papers and intellectual property. His molecules of writing contain the mirrors of his psyche. Jefferson was not a selfish man. Freedom of expression and the rights of the press were not restricted to an elite few. This freedom belonged to humanity. Hence, a breathing and sentient creature skilfully assisted in crafting a document that still breathes life into our Republic today.

The constitutional neck is being strangled.

We have the right to a free press. We have a right to freedom from illegal search and seizure. We have the right to maintain the privacy of our papers. But a deeply corrupted administration with a declining geopolitical footprint and lack of goodwill sees such concepts as both archaic and arcane. It is immoral and criminal behaviour to come for a journalist in such manner. Necrotic deeds, in the dead of night.

A free press guards against government oppression. It denies the government the capability of sanitising corruption. A free press is the scrub brush, the knife, and laser against flawed policy endeavours. A free press exposes painful episodes that wound the national psyche. Political escapades that create a confidence gap may pull a loose thread from our national fabric. They do not destroy the cloth. A free press is essential for national health. The strength of a nation is on full display when press storms are weathered with both grace and angry gusto.

Those who side with the unleashed power of a neo-Kremlin to destroy a constitutional right in the name of security are as ordinary in their neural pathways as an octopus. They spurt their curses at us in the same manner that an octopus squirts black ink to muddy the field of vision. A free press that exposes a government engaged in wrongdoing? Squirt! A free press that identifies a geopolitically weakened administration? Squirt! A free press that seeks out confidential sources as part of standard journalism craft? Double squirt of ink, and possibly multiple phone taps and a visit from men with guns.

Here’s the deal. A free press is an irreducible complexity. Professor Michael Behe of Lehigh University coined this term in 1996 and popularised the concept for the non-scientific mind with the example of a mousetrap. The average mousetrap is constructed with five integral parts: a foundation, catch, hammer, spring, and a holding bar. If any of these parts are removed without a comparable replacement, the entire system will collapse and fail to function. Essentially, an irreducible complexity is a term used to describe a characteristic of essential complex systems whereby they need all of their individual component parts in situ in order to function.

A free press is an irreducible complexity. An essential component of a free press is being actively targeted. Source confidentiality is a ‘catch’ for us.

An acrid smell reached my nostrils. Papers began to curl into beckoning arms of flame. They released a final explosion of light and blackened into small, hidden pieces of information. I observed silently, as the Constitution of the United States slowly turned to ash.

The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at

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