What Freedom of the Press Looks Like in America Today
Fifty states in the US have seen protests following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people killed by police. These protests mark a turning point for the country’s history. The coverage surrounding them has involved a collective call to action for the American people to do the work required to dismantle white supremacy and challenge the status quo in America.
A fundamental part of challenging the status quo means allowing valuable information to get to the public. However, with over 400 incidents of attacks on the press during these demonstrations, and counting, it’s clear that journalists have not been afforded the respect and safety they need to perform their duties.
Historically, the US government has spoken out against attacks on the press, but the past few weeks have seen the governments of Germany, Australia, and Turkey condemn these same attacks in the US.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation, CPJ, and US Press Freedom tracker have documented incidents of press being arrested while covering the protests, attacked by riot shields, shot with rubber bullets, and beaten with batons.
Attacks against the press have been widely documented in authoritarian countries all over the world, but to see it happen in a democratic nation that holds freedom of speech as one of its most important values is a bitter role reversal.
This political u-turn reminds us of the importance of a free press. After all, accurate coverage during times of political unrest and protest is key to inform better understanding, debate, and accountability.
We’ll say it louder for the people in the back, attacks on the press are a blatant act of censorship.
Where does this leave us, then?
Doing the work
First, we need to acknowledge how we got here. Let’s call it like it is, these acts reflect a system that’s unable to deal with its own shame, and show the dangerous effects of a leadership that has tirelessly worked to discredit news sources.
Second, we need to do whatever we can to help keep journalists safe so they can keep us informed, and help improve our understanding of society.
You can stay up to date by following the US Press Freedom Tracker’s live updates, you can share this safety advisory with your blogger or journalist friends covering the protests, or discuss these incidents with your community and what they mean for your country, and when possible, donate to these awesome efforts working to help journalists:
- Committee to Protect Journalists
- Electronic Frontier Foundation (worth looking into its advice for journalists)
- Freedom of the Press Foundation
- Article 19
- PEN America
- Global Voices