The Attack on Journalism
By Sandra Ramos
The First Amendment in the United States Constitution guarantees five things: Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble peaceably, and freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances. For the most part, the job of a journalist is protected within the United States.
A journalist's job is to write about events and inform the people, whether they be constituents of a particular region or an entire country. In a democracy like the United States, the people vote for their representatives, someone whom they think will put forth effort and usually have similar ideologies. A journalist must be there, through press conferences and rallies, to report on key points and anything that will affect the people. It would be unjust for the country that is, “for the people,” to keep them in the dark about the actions of their representatives and government. Journalists act as a guiding light and let people know what is going on around them with unbiased, accurate, and informative reporting.
Journalists in other parts of the world are not protected with the same rights as those in the United States. As a matter of fact, they don’t have many rights. According to Columbia Journalism Review, “Fifty-one percent of journalists jailed for their work are detained in Turkey, China, or Egypt.” Not only have these people been jailed, many have been murdered. It was also shown that, “In 2017, at least 42 journalists were killed worldwide in connection to their work. Iraq and Syria top the list as the deadliest places for journalists.”
What these journalists all have in common, those being jailed and killed, is that they covered either politics, wars, or human rights. Countries such as Syria and Burma are charging journalists and jailing them for, “illegally acquiring information with the intention to share it with foreign media” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” According to The Washington Post, “Governments increasingly use the pretense that journalists are accomplices of foreign acts to justify imprisonments.” In order to get rid of people who are covering their politics or are criticizing the government, these people are imprisoned, usually with no trial.
The recent entrance of President Donald Trump has also seen journalists’ passes being revoked and an implementation of new protocols. At a recent news conference at the White House, President Trump had a heated argument with CNN’s chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. The New York Times reported that when he refused to sit down and continued pressing the President over how he, “characterized the migrant caravans from Central and South America as an attack and invasion” on the people of the United States, he was called a “rude, terrible person.” His hard pass was taken when he came back to the White House.
Following the humiliation of Jim Acosta, Bill Shine, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications, and Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, responded and set forth new rules. According to The Atlantic, journalists must, “ask a single question and then yield the floor to other journalists. Follow up questions can be granted at the ‘discretion of the President’ or the White House official leading the briefing. The penalty for not abiding by the rules: ‘suspension or revocation of the journalist’s hard pass.’”
The implementation of these rules does not align with the rights journalists have been granted by the first amendment. The rules suggest that, “a reporter could jeopardize her or his hard pass simply by attempting to ask a single follow-up question without permission.” It is the White House's way of avoiding questions they believe will leave the administration tainted.
The attack on journalism has reached new heights with a president who has time and time again called the press, “the enemy of the people” and “purveyors of fake news.” These names only build a prejudice people start having about the works of journalists and the industry: they ruin reputations of big-name networks. Reporters are not working to write fake news stories, at least not the professional ones; those who take their job seriously and are there to inform.
Even with all these attacks on the industry and its people, journalists cannot let themselves be stopped. They report facts, corruption, and bias, and inform their readers. If they can’t do that, then who will? The next generation, those with thoughts and ideas, hungry for the facts and ready to report, need to learn from the journalists of today that they won’t be stopped reporting on what must be reported. A democracy does not work without the press; they inform the governed about those governing.