Politics

9 Times Obama Spoke Out For Freedom Of The Press

So, about those AP phone records…

1. At the 2013 White House Correspondents Association Dinner

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

And we also saw journalists at their best — especially those who took the time to wade upstream through the torrent of digital rumors to chase down leads and verify facts and painstakingly put the pieces together to inform, and to educate, and to tell stories that demanded to be told.

If anyone wonders, for example, whether newspapers are a thing of the past, all you needed to do was to pick up or log on to papers like the Boston Globe. (Applause.) When their communities and the wider world needed them most, they were there making sense of events that might at first blush seem beyond our comprehension. And that’s what great journalism is, and that’s what great journalists do. And that’s why, for example, Pete Williams’ new nickname around the NBC newsroom is ‘“Big Papi.’”

2. His Statement On “World Press Freedom Day in 2012”

Alex Wong / Getty Images

“On this World Press Freedom Day, the United States honors the role of a free press in creating sustainable democracies and prosperous societies. We pay special tribute to those journalists who have sacrificed their lives, freedom or personal well-being in pursuit of truth and justice.

Over sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed the right of every person “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” that right remains in peril in far too many countries.

While this year has seen some positive developments, like the release of journalists along with hundreds of other political prisoners in Burma, arbitrary arrests and detentions of journalists continue across the globe. As we condemn recent detentions of journalists like Mazen Darwish, a leading proponent of free speech in Syria, and call for their immediate release, we must not forget others like blogger Dieu Cay, whose 2008 arrest coincided with a mass crackdown on citizen journalism in Vietnam, or journalist Dawit Isaak who has been held incommunicado by the Eritrean government for over a decade without formal charge or trial.

Threats and harassment, like that endured by Ecuadorian journalist Cesar Ricaurte and exiled Belarusian democratic activist Natalya Radzina, and indirect censorship, including through restrictions on freedom of movement like those imposed on Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, continue to have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and the press. We call on all governments to protect the ability of journalists, bloggers, and dissidents to write and speak freely without retribution and to stop the use of travel bans and other indirect forms of censorship to suppress the exercise of these universal rights.

In some cases, it is not just governments threatening the freedom of the press. It is also criminal gangs, terrorists, or political factions. No matter the cause, when journalists are intimidated, attacked, imprisoned, or disappeared, individuals begin to self-censor, fear replaces truth, and all of our societies suffer. A culture of impunity for such actions must not be allowed to persist in any country.

This year, across the Middle East, North Africa and beyond, the world witnessed not only these perils, but also the promise that a free press holds for fostering innovative, successful, and stable democracies. On this World Press Freedom Day, we call upon all governments to seize that promise by recognizing the vital role of a free press and taking the necessary steps to create societies in which independent journalists can operate freely and without fear.”

3. At the 2012 White House Correspondents Association Dinner

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Tonight, we remember journalists such as Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin who made the ultimate sacrifice as they sought to shine a light on some of the most important stories of our time. So whether you are a blogger or a broadcaster, whether you take on powerful interests here at home or put yourself in harm’s way overseas, I have the greatest respect and admiration for what you do. I know sometimes you like to give me a hard time — and I certainly like to return the favor but I never forget that our country depends on you. You help protect our freedom, our democracy, and our way of life.

4. At the 2011 White House Correspondents Association Dinner

Jason Reed / Reuters

“You know, in the last months, we’ve seen journalists threatened, arrested, beaten, attacked, and in some cases even killed simply for doing their best to bring us the story, to give people a voice, and to hold leaders accountable. And through it all, we’ve seen daring men and women risk their lives for the simple idea that no one should be silenced, and everyone deserves to know the truth.

That’s what you do. At your best that’s what journalism is. That’s the principle that you uphold. It is always important, but it’s especially important in times of challenge, like the moment that America and the world is facing now.

So I thank you for your service and the contributions that you make. And I want to close by recognizing not only your service, but also to remember those that have been lost as a consequence of the extraordinary reporting that they’ve done over recent weeks. They help, too, to defend our freedoms and allow democracy to flourish.”

5. At the 2010 White House Correspondents Association Dinner

Jim Bourg / Reuters

And I don’t have to tell you that. Some of you are seasoned veterans who have been on the political beat for decades; others here tonight began their careers as bloggers not long ago. But I think it’s fair to say that every single reporter in this room believes deeply in the enterprise of journalism. Every one of you, even the most cynical among you, understands and cherishes the function of a free press and the preservation of our system of government and of our way of life.

And I want you to know that for all the jokes and the occasional gripes, I cherish that work, as well. In fact, tonight I wanted to present all of you with a bipartisan congressional resolution that honors all those wonderful contributions that journalists have made to our country and the world — but, unfortunately, I couldn’t break the filibuster.”

6. When Speaking On His Middle East Policy in 2011

Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images

“Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard -– whether it’s a big news organization or a lone blogger. In the 21st century, information is power, the truth cannot be hidden, and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.

Such open discourse is important even if what is said does not square with our worldview. Let me be clear, America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard, even if we disagree with them. And sometimes we profoundly disagree with them.”

7. When Signing of the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act In 2010

“Well, hello, everybody. I am very proud to be able to sign the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, a piece of legislation that sends a strong signal about our core values when it comes to the freedom of the press.

All around the world there are enormously courageous journalists and bloggers who, at great risk to themselves, are trying to shine a light on the critical issues that the people of their country face; who are the frontlines against tyranny and oppression. And obviously the loss of Daniel Pearl was one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is, and it reminded us that there are those who would go to any length in order to silence journalists around the world.

What this act does is it sends a strong message from the United States government and from the State Department that we are paying attention to how other governments are operating when it comes to the press. It has the State Department each year chronicling how press freedom is operating as one component of our human rights assessment, but it also looks at countries that are — governments that are specifically condoning or facilitating this kind of press repression, singles them out and subjects them to the gaze of world opinion in ways that I think are extraordinarily important.

Oftentimes without this kind of attention, countries and governments feel that they can operate against the press with impunity. And we want to send a message that they can’t.

So this legislation, in a very modest way, I think puts us clearly on the side of journalistic freedom. I want to thank Adam Schiff in the House and Senator Chris Dodd in the Senate for their leadership. And I particularly want to thank the Pearl family, who have been so outspoken and so courageous in sending a clear message that, despite Daniel’s death, his vision of a well-informed citizenry that is able to make choices and hold governments accountable, that that legacy lives on.

So we are very grateful to them. I’m grateful to the legislative leaders who helped to pass this. It is something that I intend to make sure our State Department carries out with vigor. And with that, I’m going to sign the bill.”

8. At The 2009 White House Correspondents Association Dinner

Jim Bourg / Reuters

“I just — I want to end by saying a few words about the men and women in this room whose job it is to inform the public and pursue the truth. You know, we meet tonight at a moment of extraordinary challenge for this nation and for the world, but it’s also a time of real hardship for the field of journalism. And like so many other businesses in this global age, you’ve seen sweeping changes and technology and communications that lead to a sense of uncertainty and anxiety about what the future will hold.

Across the country, there are extraordinary, hardworking journalists who have lost their jobs in recent days, recent weeks, recent months. And I know that each newspaper and media outlet is wrestling with how to respond to these changes, and some are struggling simply to stay open. And it won’t be easy. Not every ending will be a happy one.

But it’s also true that your ultimate success as an industry is essential to the success of our democracy. It’s what makes this thing work. You know, Thomas Jefferson once said that if he had the choice between a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, he would not hesitate to choose the latter.

Clearly, Thomas Jefferson never had cable news to contend with — (laughter) — but his central point remains: A government without newspapers, a government without a tough and vibrant media of all sorts, is not an option for the United States of America. (Applause.)

So I may not — I may not agree with everything you write or report. I may even complain, or more likely Gibbs will complain, from time to time about how you do your jobs, but I do so with the knowledge that when you are at your best, then you help me be at my best. You help all of us who serve at the pleasure of the American people do our jobs better by holding us accountable, by demanding honesty, by preventing us from taking shortcuts and falling into easy political games that people are so desperately weary of.

And that kind of reporting is worth preserving — not just for your sake, but for the public’s. We count on you to help us make sense of a complex world and tell the stories of our lives the way they happen, and we look for you for truth, even if it’s always an approximation, even if — (laughter.)

This is a season of renewal and reinvention. That is what government must learn to do, that’s what businesses must learn to do, and that’s what journalism is in the process of doing. And when I look out at this room and think about the dedicated men and women whose questions I’ve answered over the last few years, I know that for all the challenges this industry faces, it’s not short on talent or creativity or passion or commitment. It’s not short of young people who are eager to break news or the not-so-young who still manage to ask the tough ones time and time again. These qualities alone will not solve all your problems, but they certainly prove that the problems are worth solving. And that is a good place as any to begin.

So I offer you my thanks, I offer you my support, and I look forward to working with you and answering to you and the American people as we seek a more perfect union in the months and years ahead.

Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.”

9. At The 2009 Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner

Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press / MCT

“In all seriousness, despite the jokes I’ve told, I’m here tonight because I appreciate the work that all of you do and the role that you play. You report the news as it happens, and you’re covering history as it’s made. With a handheld camera or a mic, or now even a cell phone or a blog, you bring the truth to people and allow people to bring truth to the world.

We’re seeing that now as history is unfolding. In the sounds and images broadcast from Iran over the last week, we’ve seen professional and citizen journalists act as a voice for those who want to be heard, bearing witness to universal aspirations of democracy and freedom. Often at great risk, and sometimes with great sacrifice, they do it because the rest of us need to hear the stories that they tell. In recent years, we’ve seen the same courageous reporting in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and the Congo, and in every dangerous corner of the world. And everywhere there’s a story that needs to be told.

I think all of you understand these are changing times. As journalists, you understand that better than anyone. But one thing that will never change is the need to report the news as it happens, wherever it happens. This is what you do; and this is what will help us meet the challenges of our time. We are grateful to you for that.”

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