Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 10.14.18
Just Outside Washington


Free Press Threatened

The current news is full of stories about the possible murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent journalist who was seen entering -- but not exiting -- the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul last week. But Khashoggi is not alone.

Viktoria Marinova was brutally murdered last week in Bulgaria and Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese journalist, who, like Marinova, reported on corruption, was killed in a car bomb last year. And they are not alone

In the past year a Russian reporter was probably pushed from his balcony, a reporter in Liberia's body was tossed out of a vehicle in front of his house, and a Pakistani editor shot dead in his car on the way home from work.

UNESCO says more than 1000 journalists have been killed in the last decade, and only 10 per cent of these cases are solved.

We in the US are fortunate to live in a country that supports and honors the free press. The First Amendment of our Constitution says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

President Trump, who has pledged to defend our Constitution, has been making some strange remarks in his "defense" of the press. For example, he has said:

The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People! The public doesn't believe you people (the press) anymore, now, maybe I had something to do with that. I don't know. But they don't believe you.

I would never kill them but I do hate them (referring to reporters), and some of them are such lying, disgusting people.

As we all know, that is the tip of the iceberg. President Trump's sweeping abuse of the press includes many now familiar phrases: "fake news", "frankly disgusting", "dangerous and sick", "the lowest form of humanity" and he has charged that they can "cause war".

This drumbeat by the President changes people's attitudes. For example, 44 percent of Republican voters, in a recent poll, believe the president should be able to close news organizations for "bad behavior", and in another poll this week 51 percent of Republican voters said that the news media were "the enemy of the people.".

Does this impact people's behavior? You Betcha! Even the United Nations human rights commissioner thinks so, warning this week that President Trump's attacks on the press are "very close to incitement to violence." In August, a California man was charged with threatening to kill journalists in Boston saying: they are "the enemy of the people.".

As noted above, we seem to have a rash of press abuse and killings worldwide. The U.S. President, sworn defender of the free press, seems to have turned into an enabler of abuse. If our President stood up for what he swore to defend, maybe, just maybe some of our allies would think twice before imprisoning and/or killing members of the press.