Pressing Issues

Without Freedom of the Press, We Are Not Free

Attacks on the press, protected by the First Amendment, are an attack on our individual rights to read, write, and think independently.

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Today, Thursday, August 16, DAME stands with the Boston Globe and the hundreds of other media outlets who’ve joined their voices together to fight back against the unprecedented: a U.S. president who has declared war on the press.

At his rallies and on his Twitter feeds, Trump’s deeming journalists “an enemy of the people,” for fact-checking him on his lies and reporting on policies that have cost the lives of American people and those who live here and fight for our freedom, can strike some as mere word salad, bloviating rhetoric. But recall when that rhetoric was savagely realized six weeks ago, on June 28, in Annapolis, Maryland, by Jarrod Ramos, who fatally shot five people in the Capital Gazette newsroom. The shooter said he had the “objective of shooting every person present.” It’s only just begun.

This week saw the firing of FBI agent Peter Strzok, because he expressed a negative opinion about Trump on his own time in private texts. He’s the third FBI agent to be fired, after Andrew McCabe and James Comey. And just yesterday, the White House revoked the security clearance of former CIA Chief, John Brennan for daring to criticize Trump. This is a terrifying precedent. We are watching an administration emulate the practices of authoritarian regimes and dictators, including Vladimir Putin, who is known for disappearing and even murdering his adversaries, many of them journalists. The dystopic Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale, gives us a harrowing glimpse of what life would look like without a free press. In fact, we saw something much worse, a decimated Boston Globe office, where the entire staff was murdered. It was horrifying to see because we couldn’t suspend disbelief, because it was fiction that felt like it could immediately become our reality because we’re living in a time when journalists are pulled out of press conferences or otherwise forbidden from entering. When our work is disavowed. When our liberties are limited by law. When our deaths are called for during rallies. When we are called out by name by the president at campaign events, or on Twitter, and fingered as a threat, an act that has already incited harassment and violence—and even murder. And when the president refuses to lower the flag when those murders are realized.

At DAME, we believe in the importance of equal representation in media. As Jess McIntosh so aptly puts it: “It matters who covers the news. It matters who covers women in the news.” Women comprise 51 percent of the population, yet only occupy one-third of all media jobs in the U.S. As an independent outlet, exclusively owned and edited by women, we’re proud that our work shines a light on the issues affecting us all and amplifies intersectional voices from all backgrounds.

This is how WE speak truth to power.

With Trump in office, the importance of press has been obfuscated. Our role is, in large part, to protect a country’s citizens. We shine bright lights on corruption, greed, abuses of power, and injustice. We tell you when the tornados are coming, when the car accidents happen, and yes, even helping a lost puppy finds its way home. We’re here to let you know about product recalls, food contamination and advancements in medicine that might just help your family. Despite, one man’s desire for state-run media, composed of servile talking heads, pledging fealty to a kleptocratic administration, that is not the role of a free press. We do not serve the politicians. We serve readers.

Can you criticize the press? Yes, and you should. Good journalists do not fear being held accountable for their work. But what Trump and his allies are doing is not merely criticism, it’s something darker and much more dangerous. He is attacking the very system of journalism, the role a free press plays in a democracy, the importance of facts and truth as a pillar of a functioning society. And in turn, these attacks will not end with journalists and media organizations but eventually, they will seek to curtail individual’s rights to speak and write freely.

Without a free press, we are no longer a democracy. Without a free press, YOU, dear reader are not free. This nation was built on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, on democracy. If we are none of these things, who are we?

So today, we ask you to support all members of a free press. Subscribe to your local newspaper, donate to a non-profit media organization, thank a journalist.

In return, we will continue to speak truth to power as YOUR fourth estate.

If you want to support our work at DAME, you can do that here.

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