Freedom of the press is essential to the survival of the United States and all democratic societies, argues Gen Z Voice Kayla Glaraton. Currently under siege across the world, it is the duty of all Americans to protect it.
Freedom of the press is unquestionably essential to democracy. Without it, self-government simply would not work. The press provides citizens with the information needed to make the best decision for a community.
In the United States, this freedom is one of many guaranteed under the First Amendment. The idea of the news being controlled by the government is inherently anti-American because it goes against the core idea of our government. Although there are limits on reporter’s privilege and access, the right to report is still upheld by many.
Journalism has shaped the history of the United States. It brought to light truths about Vietnam and McCarthyism. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post uncovered President Nixon’s connection to the Watergate break-in. The Boston Globe’s investigation into sexual misconduct in the Catholic Church helped reveal the horrifically common abuse in churches all over the world.
Without freedom of the press, the world would be considerably different. It is something Americans often take for granted.
The Press and President Trump
However, freedom of the press has been considerably weakened in the last few years. Since he first announced his presidential campaign four years ago, Donald Trump, who is in his second year in office, has continually shown his animosity towards the media. Through his favorite method of contact with the American people, Twitter, he has labeled the press, “fake news” and the, “enemy of the people,” spreading distrust among his supporters.
The United States currently ranks 48 out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index created by Reporters Without Borders. The anger and distrust towards the national media is indicated by the drop in ranking from 2018 to 2019. In 2018, the United States ranked 45 out of 180. Norway, Finland, and Sweden hold the top three spots, respectively.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders held no press briefings since Feb. 28. Although one was held on April 25, it was “kids-only” and subsequently off-the-record. The lengthy gaps between briefings are incredibly rare as it is a key responsibility of the press secretary and highlights the deep dislike for the press throughout the whole administration.
The president has chosen to not speak through traditional media, instead of communicating daily with tweets. He now creates his own news updates for his supporters as well. Real News Update, hosted by daughter-in-law Lara Trump, can only truly be described as propaganda.
Beginning with the disclaimer, “paid for by Donald J. Trump for president,” the show features clips from speeches and visits. The antithesis of freedom of the press, the sole goal of the show is to promote the president. Every clip, every sentence is chosen because they showcase Trump’s strength and success to his supporters.
True, free journalism should never promote a signal idea or person. The role of journalists is to provide accurate, objective information to everyone, even if those in power would rather keep it hidden.
Freedom of the Press around the Globe
Besides it being a constitutional right, Americans must fight to protect freedom of the press because it is not the standard around the globe. In Venezuela, which is currently in the middle of a presidential crisis, the blocking of media outlets is common. 348 journalists were detained and 80 journalists were killed in 2018 alone.
In 2018, Time Magazine named “The Guardians” their Person of the Year, highlighting the danger facing the press and the truths they seek. Jamal Khashoggi, the first deceased person to be awarded the title, was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey. The Washington Post columnist had been living in exile from his Saudi Arabia home after he criticized the authoritarian government.
Time also honored two Reuters journalists imprisoned in their home country of Myanmar. The two had reported on the massacre carried out by the military against the minority Rohingya Muslim population. They were later sentenced to seven years in prison following their arrest in Dec. 2017.
Freedom of the Press in the United States
The Capital Gazette newsroom came under fire, literally, last June. The Person of the Year honorees lost five of their colleagues after a gunman entered their Annapolis office. The shooter had previously tried to sue the paper for defamation after they reported on his history of harassment.
A Minnesota judge was seen as violating the First Amendment after restricting access to a high-profile trial this March. In the trial of former police officer Mohamed Noor, who was later found guilty of shooting Justine Damond, Judge Kathryn Quaintance allowed only eight seats for the media.
As Damond was an Australian, international media was expected, as well as local media. Quaintance prohibited cameras, laptops, cell phones and recording devices from the courtroom. In the order, she noted the job of the Court in protecting the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees the right to a fair trial.
While there is a conflict between the First and Sixth Amendments, many viewed the judge’s actions are unfairly and unnecessarily infringing on the freedom of the press.
There was a great public interest in this case because it was a police-involved shooting. The press acted as a representative of the public, so the restrictions on the media’s access subsequently restricted the public’s rights.
Freedom of the press is at the core of the United States. The role of the press is to uncover when other rights are being infringed upon, both in America and across the globe. Without a free press, we would not know much of anything, as journalists work hard to decipher new tax codes and how much it actually costs to keep our military deployed in a certain country.
The free press is under great threat today. All Americans must remember why the founder fathers placed that freedom in the Constitution and we all must work hard to protect it. Without it, democracy, with it the memory of all those who fought and died to uphold it, would disappear.