Good News: Press is not the enemy of the people

Good News: Press is not the enemy of the people

By Ellen Ratner   
Trump holds his first solo press conference as president.

NEW YORK — In all my years covering government, I have never seen anything like the number of papers working together to preserve and protect the First Amendment.

President Donald Trump may want the First Amendment to go away, like the Third Amendment which no one pays attention to (“No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”) The first amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

President Trump tweeted this week: “THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country. … BUT WE ARE WINNING!”

He also tweeted: “The Boston Globe, which was sold to the Failing New York Times for 1.3 BILLION DOLLARS (plus 800 million dollars in losses & investment), or 2.1 BILLION DOLLARS, was then sold by the Times for 1 DOLLAR. Now the Globe is in COLLUSION with other papers on free press. PROVE IT!”

The press is not the enemy of the people, and this week the Senate (which is in session in August) passed a resolution that the press was not the enemy of the people. It was unanimous.

The resolution was introduced by Democratic U.S. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York. The measure, though largely symbolic, was passed by the Republican-controlled Senate in a rebuke to the president. The resolution passed by a unanimous voice vote around noon, according to a representative in Schatz’s Washington office. No senators objected to the measure.

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said, “The press’s dogged pursuit of the truth – uncovering and reporting facts, exposing wrongdoing, and holding public officials accountable – has never been more important. When we look back at these extraordinary times, I strongly believe that our free press will be recognized as heroes – and I’m proud to stand with them today.”

Part of the Globe Editorial – and the Globe also published some of the highlights from other editorials around the country – said: “This relentless assault on the free press has dangerous consequences. We asked editorial boards from around the country – liberal and conservative, large and small – to join us today to address this fundamental threat in their own words.”

The New York Times in its editorial said, “Criticizing the news media – for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong – is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. But insisting that truths you don’t like are ‘fake news’ is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the ‘enemy of the people’ is dangerous, period.”

Some people are singing from President Trump’s songbook. A poll from Quinnipiac University released on Tuesday said a slim majority of Republican respondents, 51 percent, said they consider the news media the “enemy of the people.” Thirty-six percent of Republicans thought the media were “an important part of democracy.”

As NPR reported this week, “Thirty-one journalists in the U.S. have been attacked so far in 2018, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. In June, five employees were killed in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland. A man who had a longstanding grudge with the publication has been charged with multiple counts of murder.”

I am on the American advisory board of “Reporters without Borders” and we are very concerned about press freedom, be it in the U.S. or abroad. What is happening in the United States should concern Americans as much as jailing journalists in Turkey, Vietnam or Egypt. We have not gone to the jailing of journalists yet in the United States, but when the president of this county says that journalists are the enemy of the people, then we all can imagine what is next.

It is time to support what the Senate declared in its resolution this week. The First Amendment is relevant today, even if the Third is not. The press is there for the people and we cannot give power to a king – elected or not.

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