Freedom of speech but not for ferners

Freedom of speech but not for ferners

: The U.S. is making it tough for foreign journalists to renew visas and is telling visitors on tourist visas they may not represent foreign media.

One heckuva way to demonstrate the power of the First Amendment, eh?

Two problems with this: First, foreign governments will retaliate against American journalists. Second, in this day and age, everyone is a reporter. Does this mean that a blogger over here posting about America is violating a visa?

I’m tougher on homeland security than most, but this is just stupid. We’re supposed to believe that freedom of information is a good thing, remember? [Thanks to Ernie Miller and Michael Froomkin]

  • I don’t disagree that this is a silly move. But anyone who goes to the source – – you see that this applies to (almost?) all legal foreign workers in the US who lack Green Cards. There is no special discrimination for journalists here – consider what ths is going to do to Silicon Valley to name one place that is going to go completely ape when they realise just what has been planned

  • Mike

    I didn’t realize that the First Amendment applied to foreigners. Really, is it a problem that we start restricting and tightening visa procedures here in the U.S. I just hope they’re doing this for all professions.

  • Angelos

    Actually, customes/security dole out extra abuse to journalists.
    I read an extensive article about this a month or so ago. 12- to 24-hour stays on airports, strip searches, etc.
    The point is, if you come to the US (on vacation even), say you’re anything BUT a journalist, author, etc.

  • Andy

    Would this be an indication that the U.S. like so many others have finally realized that the boundary between spy and journalist lies solely in the number of readers?
    A nation at war should be circumspect about persons arriving to make photographs, write about locations, meet with suspicious anti-government locals.
    It’s always funny when those “for whom the rules do not apply” face the same bureaucratic abuse they urged upon the “rest of us”. Shaddenfreude?
    (We really need an American word for this emotion)

  • Edgardo

    Give me a reason to discriminate in favor of journalists? After 9/11, US government has been finally enforcing many rules against foreigners’ visits (I’m a foreigner living far away from US), so I’m glad they are enforcing the rules that apply to journalists’ visits.
    You should be concerned about relaxing the rules to people that really can help your country (and certainly I don’t include journalists in this category; even worst, most are your enemy’s accomplices).

  • vicki

    I hate to think mine counts as a foreign government, but I guess it does. Here in the UK we still think we’re friends, allies, coalition partners and kissin’ cousins with you guys! But the two tiny lines of print at the bottom of my visa-waiver form (since April, it includes JOURNALISTS along with terrorists, criminals and other bad men) tells me that suddenly I’m a threat to American homeland security and a likely spy.
    Jeff: Your first point is not wholly right. The UK is one foreign government that will never ask a free press from a free country to obtain visas to visit here. (“Can I see your visa, Miss Walters?” is not a question that will ever be framed at Heathrow, I promise you.)
    Your second point is is very likely to come true. UK bloggers visiting America better go start the (laborious, time-heavy and expensive) process of obtaining an I-visa from behind the barricades at Grosvenor Square. Even if they have to lie to obtain the necessary letter from a UK media organization. (You need an official letter from such, stating that you are on an official assignment.) UK bloggers would be better advised to lie BEFORE they fly than to follow Angelos’s wrong-headed advice and lie in the face of the hard-pressed immigration staff at JFK or LAX.

  • Heath

    There is one reason I would suggest, Edgardo, to favor journalists. Mind you, I don’t much back the complete paranoia that seems to be the impetus behind much of the’Fatherland’ Security. Still, a journalist, properly fulfilling her/his professional duty, is an integral part of a working democracy. To have an informed electorate that does not simply rely on the government line, requires investigative journalists who ask questions and draw correlations for the the people who have to make the vote. Given what I see as a lack of hard-hitting media in this country and qualitatively better media outside of this nations borders, I think it is important to have foreign journalists have access to this nation. Further, the U.S. is the only remaining economic/military Superpower in the world. Every nation outside our borders has a vested interest in knowing what is going on here. It would surprise me if percentages worked out to show that people outside of this nation know more about our elections and issues than the voting populus in this country. This again I chalk up to a paucity of thorough news reporting on the part of U.S. mass media.
    As for Andy’s post re: the nation’s current ‘circumspect’view of Visa holders, I have to say that to retain moral integrity, we should extended our vaunted Constitutional protections to as many people as possible, with certain obvious expections. Our Constitution should be one of the aspects of this country we feel most proud of (I certainly am). It has been an inspiration for most (if not all) democracies that have been founded since the inception of this country. To therefore react out of hand with paranoia rather than careful consideration for whom we include and whom we exclude devaules our Constitution to both the world and ourselves.

  • Angelos

    Hard pressed immigration, please. One of the lowest forms of government lackey. Too much power and too little knowledge. Quite dangerous.
    How many bloggers can actually claim it’s their job? Sure, if you’re Cox or Sicha, you work for Denton, so that’s a job. Wouldn’t call either of them journalists though.
    If your personal blog got popular enough to get paid ads, great for you. But only if you’re an idiot (and a little delusional) will you tell any government official anywhere you’re a journalist.
    Lie lie lie. That’s the only way to deal with government. That’s the only way they deal with you.
    If anything, you’re in web site management. HTML coder. Some nonsense like that.

  • I’m hosting a panel discussion on this topic tonight at the L.A. Press Club (, featuring a State Dept. official & a Homeland Security guy, among others.

  • John Anderson

    DirtyDingus gave a link above that says this will be widely applied, nothing about journos in particular.
    And much as I think State pursues its own policies rather than accept any input from outsiders like the President, this part was interesting: “Section 303 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act requires the Department of State to collect a biometric identifier ([eg] fingerprint) from all non-diplomatic visa applicants.”

  • rogozhin

    If you think that limiting foreign journalists unfettered access is a good thing, you’re clearly not considering the ramifications; namely, what will happen with the 62nd Annual Golden Globe Awards, scheduled to be broadcast Sunday, January 16, 2005 from 8-11 PM (EST) live on NBC?? Might the HFPA decide, in a fit of pique, to not only cancel their awards show (Leaving NBC in a lurch as to what to broadcast that night… I suggest a re-run of last year’s show, cuz nobody would be the wizer), but to also quit their day jobs??? LA would shut down if the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association stopped busing tables and parking cars, just because their legitimate journalist brethren were hassled at the airport like the ‘commoners’…

  • Brian H

    Bloggers are not journalists in the usual sense, IMO, because they are unpaid and self-published. But they are writers, editorializers, and opinion makers. So who decides what kind of VISA they need to travel? I suppose if the purpose of travelling to the US is to observe and write about it, they are de facto commentators/journalists.

  • Sandy P

    Heath, the world doesn’t want our Constitution. Parts of it have had ample opportunity to adopt it and chose not to, except where Miranda rights and US attorneys are provided.
    Otherwise it’s an 18th century document not applicable to the 21st.
    If we gave it up, we could all get along, you know. We must for the good and peace of the world.
    ANd if you think I’m joshing, the brit forum by The Independent Newspaper closed on 5/6, but the threads might still be there.
    You don’t know how many times I was told that, especially in 2003.

  • Person of Choler

    Seems the issue is “freedom of entry” not “freedom of speech”.