The President and the Press: Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association
One of my favorite JFK speeches on secrecy, April 27, 1961, is beautifully crafted and deeply reflective. More importantly, the speech remains relevant to public debates on freedom of information policies, the role of the press, and the compelling need for better definitions of national security and criteria for protecting information.
However, JFK’s plea to publishers rests uneasily with the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) Declaration of Principles *:
But I do ask every publisher, every editor, and every newsman in the nation to reexamine his own standards, and to recognize the nature of our country’s peril. In time of war, the government and the press have customarily joined in an effort based largely on self-discipline, to prevent unauthorized disclosures to the enemy. In time of “clear and present danger,” the courts have held that even the privileged rights of the First Amendment must yield to the public’s need for national security…
ASNE Declaration of Principles:
The American people have a right to know, as the heirs of the Magna Carta, the inheritors of the privileges and immunities of the English Common Law and the beneficiaries of the freedoms and liberties guaranteed them by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights of the United States.To exercise this right citizens must be able to gather information at home or abroad, except where military necessity plainly prevents; they must find it possible to publish or relate otherwise the information thus acquired without prior restraint or censorship by the government; they must be free to declare or print it without fear of punishment not in accord with due process; they must possess the means of using or acquiring implements of publication; they should have freedom to distribute and disseminate without obstruction by government or by their fellow citizens.
*See Problems of Journalism: Proceedings of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, 1958. Washington, DC: ASNE, 1958, p. 230.