In 1783 George Washington said: "the freedom of Speech may be taken away—and, dumb & silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.” When the framers of our constitution set to work, they knew that their experiment in democracy called for a free and open press. Under the First Amendment, they made sure that freedom of the press was protected to hold a government accountable to the people. But times change, and today a new generation of politicians do not use the law as a way to stifle the press, they use their social media feed as a way to get their sot dangerous supporters to target and threaten reporters. More and more political leaders are targeting the media, doxing reporters, and encouraging their supporters to threaten and intimidate the press. I would imagine that this would horrify the framers but it is a troubling sign of the state of our democracy.
A free press informs Americans about issues and monitors the work of politicians and the government. Weaken and intimidate the press, and we open the door for corruption.
The police who do this briefly post to Twitter their dog whistles, see it get shared and then pull the post down in “shock” that there was a reaction. Journalists do not need to be protected against this despicable tactic, the people who do this need to be held accountable. Such behavior is ethically and professionally wrong, but a hollow apology seems to be enough for now, until they do it again.
In 2020 more than 300 journalists were assaulted in the US. And the calls to attack the media come from up high. The previous president attacked the media almost 3,000 times on Twitter. The violence has grown and the media is taking a huge risk in covering projects or ruins. That layer of oversight prevents them from freely doing what the framers of the constitution intended, and raises the need for a strong legal framework to guarantee a free press. And part of this calling out and holding accountable political leaders who use ambition and violence to get the media to stop covering them. We are lost without free and safe press. No reporter should fear for their life simply for doing their job. The media is truly the 4th estate, and it’s time we as a society recognize it as such.