The media in the United States believes that freedom of the press is being violated by the Trump administration. President Trump says mean things about journalists who criticize him and their feelings get hurt as a result. However, contrary to what they might want you to believe, the president has taken no action to shut down the press. In fact, the closest he has come to taking action against the press was revoking CNN’s Jim Acosta’s press pass for being a jerk during a Trump press conference. That hardly constitutes taking systemic action to stifle journalism in America.
The press in this country should look to other countries to realize how good they have it. Take China, for example, who has no equivalent of the First Amendment in their constitutions. In other nations, journalists are killed or jailed for reporting stories that go against the government narrative. Journalists have been imprisoned or killed in Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China, among others.
China has its own state news agency that churns out propaganda meant to shape the opinions of the masses. Real journalism is dissuaded and punished. This appears to have happened again, this time to two citizen journalists who had the audacity to report on the severity of the Coronavirus.
Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin were reporting from the province of Wuhan, China, the city where the Coronavirus originated. However, in the last few days, the two men have gone missing. The South China Morning Post reported that “Chen Qiushi, a lawyer, and Fang Bin, a Wuhan resident who became well known after he released a video clip of dead bodies in a van outside a major hospital, both disappeared last week.”
Not surprisingly, given the Communist Party’s history of covering up unfavorable stories, the severity of the epidemic was kept from the public. The cover-up prompted the two brave journalists to report the truth to the entire world.
The South China Morning Post reported on the government’s efforts to hide the outbreak’s growing death toll: “For example, on January 23, the day Wuhan went into lockdown, the evening news bulletin from state broadcaster CCTV led with a speech President XI Jinping gave at a Lunar New Year celebration and devoted less than three minutes of the 50-minute broadcast to the outbreak.”
China is just one of several countries where journalists are repressed. In 2018, the world was horrified upon hearing the news of the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi assassins.
Time Magazine reported in 2018 that “every detail of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing made it a sensation: the time stamp on the surveillance video that captured the Saudi journalist entering his country’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2; the taxiway images of the private jets bearing his assassins; the bone saw; the reports of his final words, ‘I can’t breathe,’ recorded on audio as the life was choked from him.”
Time also reported about the repression of journalists in Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Sudan:
“And in prison in Myanmar, two young Reuters reporters remain separated from their wives and children, serving a sentence for defying the ethnic divisions that rend the country. For documenting the deaths of 10 minority Rohingya Muslims, Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone got seven years…
Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam was jailed for more than 100 days for making “false” and “provocative” statements after criticizing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in an interview about mass protests in Dhaka. In Sudan, freelance journalist Amal Habani was arrested while covering economic protests, detained for 34 days, and beaten with electric rods.”
In 2017, 262 journalists were imprisoned worldwide according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The committee expects that number to continue to be high again this year.
Reporters in these countries make the struggles of the American press corps look like nothing. American journalists should reach out to their fellow reporters in these other countries and ask them what it’s like to ACTUALLY be oppressed and prevented from doing their jobs.
They ought to remember that, as the Washington Post pronounces: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”