The new motto of the online version of the WaPo is "Democracy dies in darkness", but evidently a few years in a clean well-lighted place like jail won't harm right wing investigative journalists/provacateurs/activitists. Or so we infer from the non-table pounding by media outlets that have been up in arms about Trump but are unable to editorialize in favor of the two Planned Parenthood activists hauled up on political charges in California.
The editors at the LA Times breaks ranks and shows how easy it is to defend both their side, Planned Parenthood, and freedom of press inquiry:
Felony charges are a disturbing overreach for the duo behind the Planned Parenthood sting videos
There’s no question that anti-abortion activist David Daleiden surreptitiously recorded healthcare and biomedical services employees across the state of California with the intent of discrediting the healthcare provider, Planned Parenthood — something his heavily edited videos failed to do. There’s also no question that it’s against state law to record confidential conversations without the consent of all the parties involved.
But that doesn’t mean that California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra should have charged Daleiden and his co-conspirator, Susan Merritt, with 15 felony counts — one for each of the 14 people recorded, and a 15th for conspiracy. It's disturbingly aggressive for Becerra to apply this criminal statute to people who were trying to influence a contested issue of public policy, regardless of how sound or popular that policy may be. Planned Parenthood and biomedical company StemExpress, which was also featured in the videos, have another remedy for the harm that was done to them: They can sue Daleiden and Merritt for damages. The state doesn’t need to threaten the pair with prison time.
In similar cases, we have denounced moves to criminalize such behavior, especially in the case of animal welfare investigators who have gone undercover at slaughterhouses and other agricultural businesses to secretly record horrific and illegal abuses of animals. That work, too, is aimed at revealing wrongdoing and changing public policy.
That’s why the state law forbidding recording of conversations should be applied narrowly, and to clear and egregious violations of privacy where the motive is personal gain.
The righties at the NY Post also blast away:
Think tanker: California’s ‘Chilling’ Speech Prosecution
In 2015, two filmmakers went undercover posing as a biotech company and caught Planned Parenthood in what appeared to be the act of harvesting and selling baby parts. Yet instead of punishing Planned Parenthood, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has now slapped the undercover journalists with 15 felony charges for recording without consent. “To say that this is outrageous is an understatement,” notes Pascal-Emanuel Gobry at The Week — and a “disastrous” precedent: “Embarking on serious undercover journalism will, by definition, almost always involve doing things that can be technically classified as illegal.” This kind of prosecution, then, “is a textbook case of ‘chilling effect,’ the legal and ethical concept that safeguards the First Amendment’s protection of the natural right of free speech.”
From the right: The Fourth Estate’s Cowardice
At Commentary, Noah Rothman points out another horrifying aspect to California’s persecution of the antiabortion videographers: the silence of the journalistic establishment. Indeed, the left’s counterattacks against the group, the Center for Medical Progress, have “largely focused on its efforts to perform journalism.” And where’s the outrage? “In the Trump era, the Fourth Estate has become especially protective of its profession,” Rothman writes. And yet, here we have “a real, genuine example of the heavy hand of government operating in defense of entrenched interests to criminalize standard journalistic practice,” and journalists have mostly responded with cowardice and silence.
If the WaPo and the failing NY Times have chimed in on the balancing act between rigid legalisms and a powerful government using the law to quash its political adversaries, it has escaped me.