Thursday, October 17, 2019
In this issueMedia

The ‘enemy of the people’ caught in the crosshairs

So far this year, 23 journalists have been killed and 176 imprisoned worldwide. The last thing we need are political provocateurs issuing warnings to the media and calling for murder.

Early last March, the NRA released a video ad in which the group’s spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, tells “every lying member of the media” that the NRA has “had enough of the lies, the sanctimony, the arrogance, the hatred, the pettiness, the fake news.”

Loesch specifically warns “those who bring bias and propaganda to CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.” She then picks up an hourglass, turns it over, and warns: “Your time is running out. The clock starts now.”

Fast forward to late June, when former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos wrote that he couldn’t wait “for the vigilante squads to start gunning down journalists on sight.” Two days later, five people were gunned down at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, MD. The shooting was quickly confirmed as unrelated to the provocateur’s words. Yiannopoulos walked back his call and said he was just joking.

According to the group Reporters Without Borders, the United States has fallen two places in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index and now ranks 45 out of 180 countries for press freedom.

That’s not too surprising given that Donald Trump routinely labels the press an “enemy of the American people.” Trump has verbally attacked journalists and tried to block multiple media outlets from White House access. He routinely uses the term “fake news” in retaliation for reports that criticize him, and he calls for media outlets’ broadcasting licenses to be revoked. He has singled out news outlets and individual journalists for their coverage of him, including retweeting several violent memes targeting CNN.

“By openly and aggressively targeting journalists and media outlets,” says the 2018 report, “the current U.S. administration creates a culture where journalists find themselves unprotected.” More specifically, journalists are being undermined by “attacks, arrests, border stops, searches of devices, prosecutions of whistleblowers, and restrictions on the release of public information.”

Journalists run the risk of arrest for covering protests or for simply attempting to ask public officials questions. Reporters have even been subject to physical assault while on the job.

“The alarming rise in threats to press freedom in the U.S. over recent years must be challenged,” says Thomas Hughes, executive director of Article 19, an international human rights group focused on freedom of expression and information. Hughes stresses that the “threats’ impact on freedom of expression in the U.S….have [sic] repercussions around the world.”

On July 17, almost 20 members of Congress—Republicans and Democrats—spoke to the International Trade Commission about a preliminary tariff imposed in March by the Trump Administration. The tariff, which applies to the Canadian paper product used for newsprint, has already caused print media prices to increase by as much as 30%. Larger daily papers are facing cutbacks; many local and state papers are folding.

Addressing the commission, Georgia’s Republican senator Johnny Isakson said, “I never thought I was going to say some of the things I’m going to say…[but] the threat of losing the newspaper in this country is a tremendous threat to the First Amendment.”

“Printed newspapers remain a vital part of our country’s free press,” said Isakson. “At the local, regional, and national level, these papers help us understand and provide necessary context to the events unfolding here at home and across the globe.”

Maybe the senator could talk to Dana and Milo.