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2014 Freedom of the Press Awards: Welcome remarks by Bruce Brown

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(See also Brown's dinner program Welcome Note.) Thank you, Saundra.  It’s a tremendous honor to be here with you and…

(See also Brown’s dinner program Welcome Note.)

Thank you, Saundra.

It’s a tremendous honor to be here with you and with our honorees, dinner chairs, and speaker. And it’s a special honor to share this evening with all of you who have made this our most successful dinner ever — more than $730,000 raised!  Thank you all!

This is really an exciting time at the Reporters Committee. In addition to the work we are doing with our traditional partners in the news media, such as helping to organize opposition to the government’s pursuit of reporters and their sources, defense of a free press is taking us in new directions.

We are bringing our own access and FOIA litigation and filing in surveillance cases. In fact, because we wanted to be empathetic with all the reporters we work with, early this year we went out and got ourselves subpoenaed for the first time. We know how it feels. And last month we managed to catch our very own prior restraint, unable to put out to the public an amicus brief we filed in a national security letter case. And we still can’t! If we slipped those briefs into your programs tonight, the Ninth Circuit could hold us in contempt. First subpoenaed, then gagged. Now I don’t know exactly what it means to hit for the cycle in First Amendment law, but the season is young and don’t worry, Saundra, so far your D&O policy still seems to be intact!

The past year of reporting coming out of the Edward Snowden disclosures has shown us that strong journalism and strong technology companies are essential to each other. All of this was brought home in an article last fall on NSA infiltration into the network of a major tech company. In the article, a reporter explains that he showed an engineer at the company a copy of a leaked government document boasting of its ability to beat the company’s security systems. The reporter quotes the outraged techie saying, “I hope you publish this.” And he did.

I just love that moment. To technology, journalism owes the platforms to publish that story and spread it instantly around the world. To journalism, technology owes the knack to find stuff out — even stuff that may be taking place in Silicon Valley’s own servers. Together we are dedicated to the flow of information to the public and accountability from government, and the Reporters Committee is here to do its part to help.

So please, celebrate with us tonight the free press — and the right to fight for it.

Thank you.


Photo: Jonathon Ziegler/Patrick McMullan.com