Journalism protects American democracy


Rachel McCoy

This memorial at the Newseum in Washington D.C. remembers journalists who have fallen in the line of duty.

by Ethan Hart, Managing Editor

Jamal Khashoggi, a writer for The Washington Post and critic of Saudi Arabia’s ruler Mohammed bin Salman, disappeared on October 2 after entering a Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey. His apparent death, along with many other journalists since 1993, illustrated the frightening truth that press freedom is in danger not only in foregn countries but in America as well.

This can be directly related to the increased oppression in the United States of minority views by groups of power. The steady loss of press freedom can be linked to the criticism of the media by Donald Trump and his followers, who have deemed the press an “enemy of the people,”as well as threatened to revoke media broadcasting licenses.

With the fourth estate in America under threat, it is more important now than ever for journalists to push back against their waning freedom. The press gives power to the people, providing a strong democratic base for our society.

The murders of journalists are the biggest indicator that the freedom of the press is in crisis. Data collected and analyzed by The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) show that since 1993, 1,842 journalists have died in the line of duty. In that same time span, 14 American journalists have been murdered, including eight in the past four years.

This is a terrifying sign that the fourth estate may not continue to be free in the United States and could follow trends of other large countries who continue to suppress journalists, such as Russia and China. If such a change were to occur, the core values of our country would be in jeopardy, as journalists who report the truth are attacked by those who disagree with them.

Although America boasts the rights to freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, this freedom is declining at an alarming rate. In an analysis by the organization Reporters Without Borders, The United States is ranked 45th in the world in overall freedom of their press, down from 43rd in 2017, and 41st in 2016.

This can be contributed to Donald Trump’s attempt to making journalism free only to those who agree with his point of view. This was the case in multiple scenarios when he referred to opposing media organizations such as BBC and CNN as “fake news.” He also has threatened to take away the broadcasting license of NBC after they published a story about former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling Trump a “moron.”

The government and its representatives should never have the power over what the media is allowed to report, especially the truth. This separation of powers defines our democratic society and allows the citizens to form their own opinions. If this continues, minority views will no longer be represented in our society, and we will lose our democracy.

The collection of views and opinions that comprise the fourth estate is what makes America a free country, and it is what defines our democracy.