This is the sort of story that made me start this blog in the first place. In today’s New York Times Op-Ed page, Nicholas D. Kristoff goes out of his way to bitch-slap the middle ages for no good reason in “Our Not-So-Free-Press.”
In May, Iran’s secret police detained me in Tehran and demanded that I identify a revolutionary guard I had quoted as saying “to hell with the mullahs.” My interrogators threatened to imprison me unless I revealed my source. But after a standoff, the Iranian goons let me go. Imprisoning Western journalists for protecting their sources was too medieval, even for them. Let’s hope the U.S. judicial system shows the same restraint as those Iranian thugs.
Things that did not exist in the middle ages: 1) Newspapers. 2) Western journalists. 3) Any notion of an obligation for #1 or #2 to protect sources.
Sure, the middle ages had horrible plagues, an intermittently insane transnational religious hierarchy, a collection of brutal political systems, famines, etc. It also had Islamic people. As a medievalist, I probably ought to apologize personally for the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the last King Arthur movie. But one thing the pre-printing press middle ages did not have was a band of thugs tossing newspapermen into jail for refusing to reveal their sources.
Additional props to Mr. Kristoff for using medieval and Islamic interchangeably, a modern press habit that is definitely on the rise, even if I’m too lazy to track down examples of it.