World Press Freedom Day celebrates journalistic freedom, allowing journalists to hold their government accountable. Amanda Parisse analyzes this year’s theme and the rights of an unrestricted press.
Freedom of the press is one of the United States’ defining traits, providing the rest of the world with an example of what an unrestricted press is capable of. The American press has the unique privilege of practicing journalism free of censorship and other restrictions.
Journalists in America have the ability to openly criticize their government, engage in in-depth investigation, and as expose corruption or injustice without fear of revenge. During elections, government scandals, and national tragedies the freedom of the press is crucial to ensuring that the democratic process remains in operation.
2019 World Press Freedom Day
This year’s theme celebrates the role media plays in democracy during elections, and in ensuring the truth is reported as opposed to spreading misinformation.
Since the 2016 election, the role of the media has become more important more than ever, with the current administration making the phrase “fake news” a common jab among right-wing politicians attempting to discredit media outlets.
In the past three years, the phrase “fake news” has become a catch-all excuse for any press coverage which the right-wing disagrees with or which casts them in a less than positive light.
Blaming unfavorable press coverage on “fake news” is an attempt to undermine the freedom of the press.
Reporters and journalists have a duty to the American people to report all relevant and credible information they can find about the man or woman running for president, regardless of whether the candidate’s ego is bruised or reputation is tarnished when the public is informed of past transgressions
The coverage of elections from well-known media outlets is trusted because the public knows that the facts they are reading or hearing in the news are generally unbiased, and more importantly are not censored or redacted by their government in an attempt to make one candidate seem more favorable. Freedom of expression for the media allows for an unbiased and fair election to occur.
The concept of “freedom of expression” is unique to the American press, unlike journalists in countries like Russia, China, and North Korea, journalists are allowed to openly criticize candidates and report the truth to the general public.
The press is able to provide unfavorable commentary on the actions and statements made by candidates truthfully and accurately preventing the public from being misled.
In a country where information is at our fingertips, the press has the ultimate power of swaying the opinions of the general public based on what they choose to release during a campaign. The information that they are entitled to find and subsequently release defines the outcome of elections and the future of hopeful candidates.
Freedom of the press in the US
The most well-known example of freedom of the press can be found in the First Amendment, arguably prevents the government from “interfering with the distribution of information and opinions “allowing the press to hold the government accountable for their actions.
The ongoing investigations into the 2016 election is a moment in recent history where freedom of the press has been exercised, with media outlets releasing sections of the investigative reports focused on the legality of the events that occurred during the president’s 2016 campaign. The press used the power of the pen to provide constitutional checks and balances, holding the current administration accountable for their actions during the campaign.
Today the freedom of the press is under constant attack by Donald Trump. He made consistent attempts to control the flow of information to the American people. He attempted to bar left-wing media outlets from the White House press room. He selected press secretaries from Sean Spicer to Sarah Sanders who have been loyal soldiers to the Trump administration since the election.
The freedom of the press extends to freedom of expression without one we would not have the other. In times of national crisis or scandal, the media and press are the first ones there, doing their duty to the American people and presenting an unbiased account of the events allowing the public to draw their own conclusions.
What freedom of the press means to me
In the months leading up to election day, I followed press coverage of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump closely, using the media coverage to make an informed decision of who to vote for come November. I am grateful for the transparency and freedom the press has, ensuring that I had all of the information I needed to choose a candidate.
As a journalist, I value the freedom of expression and the ability to express my opinions on all of our institutions, be it the federal government, local politicians or the administration of my college. Their actions directly impact me, my classmates, my community, our country and sometimes the world.
As an American citizen, I am lucky to be afforded the rights of the press, to criticize politicians and inform the public of their wrongdoings.