First Amendment needs allies beyond World Press Freedom Day

May 3, 2018 11:00

World Press Freedom Day 2018 comes as the press is decreasingly free, in the U.S. and around the world.

Threats to press freedom at home are nothing new, but have only been growing, starting with “fake news” rhetoric lobbed at hoax sites, opinion media and journalists alike – rhetoric becoming increasingly threatening.

Vitriolic language has even escalated into growing violence against journalists, with at least 45 physical attacks on journalists reported in 2017 and 8 so far in 2018, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, of which RTDNA is a founding partner.   

As more and more of the public believes journalists report “fake news,” the term is becoming weaponized.

8 journalists began 2018 facing criminal charges, just for doing their jobs, in further efforts to stifle press freedom.

At least two face deportation, including Mexican journalist Emilio Gutierrez, who faces death threats if forced to return to his native country.

Confirming the erosion of First Amendment protections, the U.S. has slipped two spots to 45th of 180 countries ranked by the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

This trend is reverberating around the world as journalists are increasingly threatened, jailed and even killed.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 26 journalists have been killed in 2018 as of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. This includes ten who were killed April 30 in a series of attacks in Afghanistan, including one perpetrated by a bomber posing as a photojournalist.
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“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." - Universal Declaration of Human Rights  
In light of this disturbing degradation of press freedom, it is more important than ever to stand together with one voice as journalists and global citizens.

RTDNA’s Voice of the First Amendment Task Force is that united voice, established to proactively address to threats to First Amendment freedoms and ensure journalists can do their jobs freely.
RTDNA and the task force urge journalists today to know your rights and not back down.
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The First Amendment is a pretty thin read, just four words in a subordinate clause: “or of the press,” give us constitutional protection. Thin, but not fragile. You were granted these freedoms. Use them! - David Rhodes, CBS News, 2018 RTDNF First Amendment Awards

At the same time, journalists also have a responsibility to act ethically and educate our audiences.

So for the future of journalism to thrive, we are all accountable and all responsible for each other’s reputation and there’s no doubt some want us to fail. - Chuck Todd, NBC, 2018 RTDNF First Amendment Awards

It is more important than ever to show what journalism is and why press freedom matters to a public increasingly skeptical of “media.”

One way we do so is to highlight reporting that uncovers wrongdoing and is a catalyst for positive change in the communities journalists live in and love.

Just take a look at any one of the 2018 Regional Murrow Award-winning stories, more than 700 examples of local news making a difference.

Sharing these stories is important because press freedom is really about the communities journalists serve.

We cannot make our communities better if we do not understand them, and journalists have dedicated their lives to uncovering challenges, understanding issues and uplifting each other’s voices.

We don’t know about you, but RTDNA will continue to promote and protect press freedom today, tomorrow, and for World Press Freedom Days to come.

“There [is] some tremendous journalism happening….Let’s let it flourish. Let’s support it. Let’s let it thrive. And let’s keep protecting that First Amendment.”  - Chuck Todd, NBC, 2018 RTDNF First Amendment Awards