How inappropriate is the wiretapping of journalists in the democracy?

As Some Slovak journalist had been allegedly wiretapped by the Military Defense Intelligence I have asked few experts when it could be justified.

Nicholas DaniloffProfessor of Journalism, Northeastern University

Surreptitious surveillance and wire-tapping of journalists in times of peace and stability is unacceptable in a democracy. American society has struggled with this issue from time to time. President Nixon, for example, wire-tapped some journalists during his administration who landed on what was known as his “the enemies list.” President G.W. Bush authorized listening in on long distance conversations between American citizens and persons abroad who were believed to be terrorists after the attack of 9/11. Both of these incidents caused much criticism and debate in the U.S.

However, in cases of imminent attack even a democracy might be justified in wire tapping if the highest authorities believed it would be necessary to safeguard security. Some wire-tapping continues in the U.S. today because of the constant concern about another 9/11 or so-called “lone wolf” attack. (One such planned lone wolf attack was revealed in New York yesterday). But such surveillance is supposed to be very limited and authorized by a special court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which examines all aspects of the situation before authorizing secret surveillance.

Authoritarian governments often resort to this sort of surveillance with no apparent concern for the rights of privacy of individuals, journalists, or media organizations. As a Moscow correspondent in the 1980s, my telephones were tapped and, of course, I had to accept that intrusion. The practice is abhorred in open societies and you are right to make an issue of it.

Charlie BeckettPolis Director, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

If it’s wrong for journalists to hack into people’s phones then it must be wrong if it is done to journalists. Politicians and governments should spend more time and money on explaining themselves in public to the citizens instead of trying to control the media. I can think of very few circumstances where secret monitoring of journalists would be justified.

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One Response

  1. contradictory and fuzzy statements…..
    oskar

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