Everyone should be troubled by the government’s view that those opposing it are threats, can never be journalists, and thus do not have protections that mass media journalists get. Peter Santilli has been indicted for his roles in the Bunkerville standoff and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation. He says he has a radio show with 65,000 subscribers and thus is a journalist. The government says he’s a conspiracy nut so therefore he cannot be a journalist because his views are not mainstream. How very Orwellian.
And just who determines what proper mainstream views are and why is someone who criticizes the government stripped of constitutional protections? I disagree with his views. However that is a completely separate issue from his right to say them, and if he has a radio show then he is a journalist. This is the “freedom of speech [and the press], just watch what you say” that Ice-T rapped about.
A Feb. 9 post on the ACLU blog by Legal Director Mat dos Santos points out that Santilli’s words didn’t pose a threat during the takeover, even though they may have been disagreeable.
“While many people might disagree with statements made by those involved in the Malheur takeover, Americans have a fundamental right to freedom of speech,” dos Santos writes. “Law enforcement can and should differentiate between controversial statements and real threats. What’s at stake here could indeed be larger than a radio personality’s career, Malheur and Oregon.”
Santilli apparently was not directly involved in the standoff and occupation.
“Santilli is situated much differently than the other defendants. His role as a journalist here in Nevada and Oregon should be considered in his release. Santilli never carried a firearm, never threw a rock, never came into any type of physical confrontation with government officials.”
Federal prosecutors, however, do not share Rasmussen’s opinion.
They contend in court documents that Santilli and his web-based Guerilla Media Network are not part of the mainstream media and that his podcast espouses anti-government rhetoric and conspiracy theories.
According to prosecutors, Santilli was part of the “organizing nucleus” with Bundy family members of the armed assault on Bureau of Land Management officers two years ago in Nevada.
Helping organize it is a completely separate issue from being a journalist and should be treated as such.