With this year’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist from Saudi Arabia, the issue of persecuting journalists has become more important than ever. On October 2nd, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey and never left. This caused many to speculate that Khashoggi was murdered within the consulate. Finally, after two weeks, the Saudi government admitted that Khashoggi was killed claiming that a “fistfight” occurred and Khashoggi had died in the struggle. This claim is very different from what Turkish officials believe, especially since they state that a Saudi “hit squad” and autopsy expert lay in wait for Khashoggi.
Khashoggi was in self-imposed exile from Saudi Arabia for writing critically about the Saudi government. Any journalist should be able to express critical opinions about a government without fear of persecution. However, throughout the world, this is becoming less and less possible due to governments and government leaders attacking the free press.
One of the greatest examples of attacks against the press is the current President of the United States, Donald Trump. One of the most recent examples of this is when Trump praised a Republican senator for assaulting a reporter. Trump stated, “any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of […] guy.” Trump shows no respect for a member of the press and by saying this is, in fact, encouraging others to attack the press. Trump is fear-mongering, encouraging his supporters to believe that the press is the enemy of the people.
Trump further portrays the press as the enemy of the people by calling any negative press “fake news.” Trump has done this since he started his campaign even claiming he coined the term “fake news.” Trump’s portrayal of the media as the enemy when they go against what he says creates a lot of distrust within his following. Trump creates a dangerous image that the press is the enemy of the people and has created a lot of distrust in the media around the world. The most recent example of the media being made the enemy is with a bomb being sent to the CNN headquarters.
The media as portrayed by Trump is not to be trusted, and because of this, Trump has created his own news source. On Donald Trump’s website (Donaldjtrump.com) he posts weekly news updates from Trump Tower claiming that it is a “real news update” with his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, ending each episode by stating “and that is the real news.” This infers that other news is fake and only what Trump and his family present is real. Other politicians have followed in Trump’s footsteps and created their own news sources, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford who created Ontario News Now. This is similar to authoritarian countries such as North Korea and Russia where the central government has control over the media.
Attacks on the press are attacks on democracy itself. A free and open press is an important part of any democratic society. Freedom of the press is closely related to freedom of speech that democratic countries have as a basic human right. It is the press’ responsibility to hold the government accountable for its actions. In order for this to occur the press must have the ability to publish whatever is most important that day without fear of persecution. It is the people’s job to protect the press as they are the voice of the people.