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Democracies need journalists

Chandler Gory, Contributing Writer

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Jamal Khashoggi is dead.

The Saudi government murdered him because he was a journalist who spoke his mind.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 67 journalists and media workers have been killed in 2018. Khashoggi makes 68.

Sixty-eight people have died reporting the truth, checking unfettered government power and exposing corruption. Sixty-eight people have died performing an honorable public service. In a world full of failed states and mock-democracies, it isn’t surprising journalists are targeted. Hostile governments continually go after journalists, because journalists represent an oppressive regime’s greatest enemy: the truth.

In the United States, hating the press is in vogue. President Donald Trump takes great pleasure in using the term “fake news.” In Trump Land, The Washington Post is fake, MSNBC is a liberal cesspool, CNN is extra fake with a side of wack job, and don’t even get me started on the extra fake, lying, traitorous New York Times.

Trump’s attacks on the press follow the Obama administration’s often un-talked-about, not-so-subtle war against press freedom. Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department and FBI monitored some journalists’ phone records and subpoenaed others in an attempt to force them to reveal their classified sources. Obama is proof that being antagonistic toward the press is a liberal policy, too.

Americans love the First Amendment but hate the press. The same people who think Nazis should be allowed to parade through the streets think “leakers” and the journalists who report their stories should be thrown in jail. It’s ludicrous and horribly, tragically dangerous.

The freedom of speech is a cornerstone of American democracy. Our First Amendment is equal parts beautifully and infuriatingly vague. It is open to interpretation, both good and bad. However, its contents should not be cherry-picked to fit a political agenda. It’s hypocritical to covet free speech but advocate for silencing the press. You can criticize the press, but you shouldn’t belittle it. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, journalists like Khashoggi are quietly killed, dismembered and disposed of.

The American news media isn’t perfect. It is a perpetrator of phony outrage, obsessed with petty arguments, ethnocentric to a fault and lacking in diversity. It plays up tragedy and feeds off animosity and conflict. In many cases, it is beholden to corporate interests. But it is also vital to an informed electorate, the last line of defense against government corruption and the gatekeeper of democracy. Our republic wouldn’t survive without the press there to protect it from the flawed men and women who run it.

Khashoggi is dead because he dared to tell the truth.

Unlike Trump and Obama would have you believe, journalists are not the enemy. The people who seek to silence them are.

 

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Democracies need journalists