Journalists have a habit today, especially during the Trump era, of patting their own backs. CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s upcoming book “The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America” is a good example of this hubris. The book is described by the publisher as an “explosive, first-hand account of the dangers he faces reporting on the current White House while fighting on the front lines in President Trump’s war on truth.” While Trump’s rhetoric can be brash and inappropriate (especially his “enemy of the people” rebukes, which I find pernicious), we enjoy press freedoms in America that few other places in the world offer. Even our friends in the U.K. don’t enjoy the freedoms we do.
Today is World Press Freedom Day, and while, on American soil, journalists enjoy rights enshrined by the Constitution, much of our news comes from places where governments are hostile toward writers, or where journalists are on the front lines of conflict and reporting the news puts them in harm’s way. In Myanmar, Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo has been in prison for 508 days, handcuffed and flanked by police for investigating the killings of Rohingya Muslim men and boys. Persian journalists face harassment and intimidation from Iranian authorities for doing their jobs. Journalists in Gaza and Syria have covered war while bullets are flying through the air. Shifa Gardi was killed by a roadside bomb in February 2017 while covering the Iraqi army’s offensive against ISIS. The Turkish government jails more journalists than any other nation. Most jailed journalists (70 percent) face anti-state charges.
We rely on the bravery of these journalists in order to learn about and understand the world that surrounds us.
Whether we are journalists or consumers of news — or both — we should be incredibly grateful that we live in a country where we can freely criticize our own government, and where even those who create so-called “fake news” are condemned by consumers rather than thrown in prison. We should also not take for granted the sacrifice that many foreign correspondents make in order to bring us our consciousness of places thousands of miles away. It may not be a dangerous time to tell the truth in America, but it is in nearly every other part of the world.