Editorial: When freedom of the press is silenced or imprisoned

Column By Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin

Journalists are jailed around the globe. How can it be?

First Amendment aggressions are occurring in the United States. How can it be?

Devious despots misusing power and preying upon humanity — withholding information because knowledge is power. Silencing the other side of the story. Fear of losing control feeds their depravity. Dictators are hiding behind castle walls with armies of destruction for those who dare criticize.

Freedom of the press is held hostage as journalists observe through prison bars. These are the courageous story-tellers who sacrifice personal safety for the human rights of others. But their lips will not be nailed shut like a wooden coffin. Truth finds a way to seep out of the cracks and crannies of the grave.

Duvar English, an independent newspaper in Turkey, revealed the following facts in a 2019 article. “There are 250 imprisoned journalists in the world, nearly 50 of whom are in Turkey, according to a report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Turkey follows China with the second largest number of journalists jailed with 47, marking a decrease from 68 last year . . . Penned by CPJ editor Elana Beiser, the report noted that more than 100 news organizations have been closed under the current Turkish government and that many working journalists are being accused of terrorism and are in legal battles . . . Saudi Arabia and Egypt tied for third place with 26 journalists incarcerated.” www.duvarenglish.com.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) lends bulletproof vests and helmets at no cost to journalists traveling to dangerous areas.

Freedom of Press in the USA

“Before the thirteen colonies declared independence from Great Britain, the British government attempted to censor the American media by prohibiting newspapers from publishing unfavorable information and opinions.” www.history.com.

The First Amendment, which protects freedom of the press, was adopted Dec. 15, 1791, as part of the Bill of Rights.

“The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, which documents First Amendment aggressions in the United States, has collected student journalism-based incidents at both the university and high school levels. Since its launch in 2017, the Tracker has documented five cases of high school newspapers being censored or placed under prior review for their coverage of controversial topics. At the university level, it has collected two arrests, two physical attacks and three border stop involving student journalists, as well as three cases of subpoenas or legal orders,” according to www.freedom.press.

What can citizens in the U.S. do?

Support your local newspaper (such as the Gila Herald) and pay for the news you consume. In the case of the Gila Herald, by considering its advertisers when a good or service is needed. Read local, state, and national newspapers and write Letters to the Editors about free press issues.

Join or donate to Reporters Without Borders at www.rsf.org. Reporters Without Borders USA (RSF USA) is the U.S. office of the global organization. Read about the 100 Information Heroes from countries abroad.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. CPJ is made up of about 40 experts around the world, with headquarters in New York City. When press freedom violations occur, CPJ mobilizes a network of correspondents who report and take action on behalf of those targeted. www.cpj.org.

Be aware of fake news outlets and fake news on social media. PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others at www.politifact.com. Snopes.com is an independent publication fact-checking site online. Fact-checking and accountability journalism from AP journalists around the globe at FactCheck@ap.org.

“Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.” — George Orwell

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Southern Ohio. Contact her at melissamcolumnist@gmail.com.