Like many news editors and producers, reporters on the ground are often more interested in stories on news-related topics than the average consumer. I’m one such reporter. But we still need more in-depth news on strangled speech. In today’s 140-character world, many reporters I know post or re-post snippets on journalist abuse, but save their full-length reporting for stories exclusively on economic or political trends. Newspeople getting cracked with government nightsticks deserve as much substantive coverage as they can get. And the public needs to see it, too.
Our press systems and economies are increasingly connected and co-reliant, and an assault on one journalist is an assault on our shared body of work and our ability to confront global challenges. “When the rights of foreign media are curtailed, our rights are threatened,” writes First Amendment scholar and Columbia University president Lee Bollinger. (Emphasis in original).
Guilt may be driving much of my coverage of oppressed journalists in this part of the world, but guilt is often a logical emotion that stems from a threatening human action or injustice. Guilt is instructive, and can be necessarily motivating. Newspeople who see an underfoot journalist should give, to the extent they can, rooftop amplification to their inner voice of guilt and to the journalist’s plight. Doing so acknowledges the solidarity all journalists feel, or at least should, and at the same time defends our collective right to file and consume news that isn’t sieved or stained by self-interested leaders.