Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: The Hermit Republic?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: The Hermit Republic?

Article excerpt

The problem: Antagonists and allies alike increasingly view the United States as a double-talking hypocrite in its conduct abroad.

They see America preaching freedom of the press, but shutting down a mullah's newspaper when the rhetoric stings too much. Or talking up the rule of law, but reserving the right to slip the reins of international commitments and run amok diplomatically or militarily without a moment's notice.

So what's the State Department's latest solution? Adopting a journalist-visa policy that simultaneously alienates thousands of foreign reporters by enormously complicating their professional and personal lives, while further tarnishing the nation's reputation as a guarantor of press liberty -- and, for good measure, blithely disregarding its obligations as a signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights and other international pacts.

Oh, there's one more thing. These changes won't just affect the 20,000 foreign journalists who are issued so-called nonimmigrant I visas in an average year -- the new policy will also almost certainly will touch off tit-for-tat restrictions on American reporters trying to do their jobs in foreign lands.

Under its new policy, the State Department is shutting down its "domestic reissuance service" for I visas -- meaning a foreign journalist who has already jumped through considerable hoops just to get the visa will be forced to leave the country to renew it, a process that typically takes a month or more. …

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