Before Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA’s extensive surveillance programmes on American citizens, he travelled to Hong Kong to escape the reach of the United States’ justice system.
Perhaps he was mindful of the fate of Bradley Manning, who faces life in prison for releasing thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks. But while Snowden may have outrun the long arm of the law, he could not avoid trial by media.
Snowden has been described as a “weasel”, a “narcissist” and a “punk” – not by US politicians or officials but by the journalists and newscasters leading the debate over his actions. And the discussion in the mainstream media seems more focused on Snowden’s pole-dancing girlfriend and high school record than on one of the most comprehensive telephone and online surveillance programmes in human history.
It raises the question: Why focus on the character of the leaker and not the content of the leak? Is the media once again, shooting the messenger?
This week’s News Divide takes US journalism to task over its treatment of Edward Snowden and those who dare to leak government secrets to the press. We interviewed former whistleblower Thomas Drake, who revealed classified information on NSA surveillance in 2010; Jesselyn Radack, from the Government Accountability Project; and reporters Hamilton Nolan of Gawker; and Dana Priest from the Washington Post.
On our Newsbytes this week: A daily newspaper in Turkey has joined Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in his war of words against foreign media outlets; the continuing standoff at the Ecuadorean embassy in London over the legal status of Julian Assange; and the Greek government’s plan to shut down the country’s state-owned broadcaster that has been thwarted by a court ruling.
For our feature we return to a problem faced by journalists every day: the dos and don’ts of terminology; the kind of language to use or avoid when dealing with controversial topics. This year, the world’s largest news agency, the Associated Press, has made significant changes to its stylebook – changes that influence the way the media talks about troublesome topics. The Listening Post’s Marcela Pizarro takes a look at terminology in the news and the power behind words.
Lastly, if our report on Edward Snowden has left you feeling a little exposed, don’t worry – watch our web video of the week and let “Snuggly” soothe you back to security. It is Mark Fiore’s cuddly take on NSA surveillance. Privacy? Who needs it? In the end, is it not better to be snuggly and secure?
Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.
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