I met Claire O’Brien through her blog, Eléctrica in the Desert, and have had the privilege of corresponding with her and learning of the targeted attacks she experienced due to her refusal to reveal a confidential source during a racially and politically divisive murder trial in Dodge City, Kansas. I shared her story in a recent post, That’s how it goes. The following article by Les Anderson summarizes in greater detail what transpired in Dodge City: Without reporter’s shield laws, who would be willing to speak up?, but is still a partial chronology which omits the vital issue of Lucy Dalglish, former director of the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, lying to and about Claire.
Many readers of this blog are familiar with the neoliberal assault on the public spaces of education and journalism. The suppression of a reporter’s First Amendment rights to free speech is predicated on the ability to protect confidential sources. Without this assurance, journalists would be at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to gathering accurate, independent information and reporting it to the public. Fewer concerned citizens would be willing to come forward with critical information needed to face down oppressive corporations, institutions and individuals acting in opposition to the public’s interests. In journalism, as in most professions, one’s reputation is everything. Along with her livelihood, this is what the career politicos took from Claire…her name. If I could beg you to act on Claire’s behalf I would, so consider me on my knees. Claire is a sister, our sister, in the struggle.
You can send the following petition into an email to Tony Mauro (TMauro@alm.com), then-president of the RCFP Steering Committee, who was present when Lucy Dalglish admitted to Claire that she lied about Claire to the Associated Press. Please share this petition as widely as you possibly can, using every social media outlet at your disposal. Claire has been blackballed from working for four years now and is dependent on public assistance for survival:
TO: Mr. Tony Mauro, U.S. Supreme court reporter, American Law ReviewYour silence regarding the prolonged attack on reporter Claire O’Brien following her role in the Dodge city murder trial of Samuel Bonilla is a damaging weapon, a contemptible insult, an abuse of power and a daily choice. As the president of the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press’ steering committee, you were entrusted with the simple and vital task of defending reporters from being forced to act as an arm of law enforcement. In other words, you were responsible for defending the First Amendment right of a free press to protect the identity of confidential sources – not testify about them to the state. You weren’t authorized to assist the RCFP’s powerful director in lying to truthful reporters who face criminal charges, incarceration, and steep fines. The bylaws you were bound to uphold did not allow the RCFP to discriminate against such reporters based on personal opinions, likes and dislikes, professional status, rumor, social bias, gossip, disability issues, the influence of corporate counsel, or input gleaned from a reporter’s enemies. Anyone can be destroyed by influential media interests and attorneys, a fact of which you are very keenly aware.You were present via an April 21, 2010 conference call in which Dalglish admitted having lied to Claire O’Brien, telling her that Claire’s report of GateHouse Media’s threats were unfounded – after GateHouse itself had confirmed them to Dalglish! You knew that Dalglish defamed Claire to the Associated Press with damaging fabrications two days later, thereby destroying her credibility and reputation, while backing the lies of a ruthless corporation. Further, you refused to admit that Claire had any right to know the reason for Dalglish’s outrageous attack on her, nor to issue a press release restoring her professional name. What you eventually agreed to issue, four months after Daglish’s lies went out on the AP’s national wire and three months after O’Brien had been fired and blacklisted with no notice or severance pay, was a weak, self-serving piece of PR that made no mention of the fact that Dalglish had lied to O’Brien, lied about her, lied to the public, and censored an important news story.Since then, Dalglish has used her influence to defame Claire O’Brien on a national level. Every opportunity to publicize the truth, every potential supporter, every First Amendment nonprofit’s legal staff, and every job offer have been corrupted by a narrative constructed by Dalglish and disseminated via the networks of influence available to her.You have treated Claire’s humanity and work like a toxic waste dump, destroying her life in the service of power and caused her needless trauma and suffering. You have betrayed the most important standards of your profession, thumbed your nose at democracy, and revealed a disrespect for the American people that calls into question your ethical qualifications re. your own job of reporting the truth to the public. If you continue to ignore the pleas for justice that have been sent to you for several years, this issue will reach the American people. If you will not answer to Claire, nor to us, you will be answering to them.We urge you to – finally – do the right thing. Don’t allow this to become your legacy, Mr. Mauro. Step forward to reclaim the decency and courage of journalism’s traditions. You will discover that the truth will protect you, and that your action will free others to follow.
*Please copy your email to the following people, each of whom played a role in her ongoing persecution and can help to put pressure for others to act on Claire’s behalf:
Thank you for your support and solidarity with Claire in the suffering she has endured to preserve her integrity as a journalist and on behalf of the profession itself. Every voice is needed in the struggle. Feel free to add anybody and everybody that you think might be interested in taking up Claire’s cause. Any questions regarding this petition or for more information on Claire’s case should contact Claire directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org