Editorial: Stifling the Press Undermines Democracy

When meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda in July, President Donald Trump said, “What we want to see in the United States is honest—beautiful, free—but honest press. We don’t want fake news. Very bad for our country.”

Interesting, given the President’s efforts to undermine the credibility of the press, and because Duda has been accused of clamping down on press freedoms in his own country.

A report by Freedom House, an organization that monitors press freedom across the globe, said Duda was using legislative, political and economic means to “stifle the media and limit dissent and debate within the country.” The report concluded:

“A free press can only fulfill its role of holding power accountable if the daily work of journalists is not impeded by ownership concerns, political interference, or a worry about saying ‘the right thing.’”

Why would a government or organization want to stifle the press?

Simple, they don’t want two sides presented.

A democracy works because all sides have a say. That say may be uncomfortable to those in power, but it allows others to make informed decisions and to ask questions. It’s only when questions are asked that truths are found& and the best moral decisions can be made.

If newspapers are available with articles that present both sides, then people are free to make choices, such as:

Are these the people we want running our government/ organization? Are these the people we want in power?

Bingo. That’s why some governments strive to control the newspapers and media—the people making decisions don’t want their power undermined. They have the answers, they think, and total disdain for their constituents.

Poland isn’t even on the list of the 10 most censored countries, according to a list compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists, where the government in power tightly controls the media.

  1. Eritrea, an African country where the last accredited international correspondent was expelled in 2007.
  2. North Korea, where the content for 12 main newspapers comes from the official Korean Central News Agency, which focuses on the political leadership’s statements and activities.
  3. Saudi Arabia, which has a new law that “criminalize virtually any expression or association critical of the government and its understanding of Islam.”
  4. Ethiopia, which has filed lawsuits against editors and forced publishers to cease production.
  5. Azerbaijan, where officials have filed debilitating lawsuits, evictions, a ban on foreign funding, and advisories to businesses against advertising.
  6. Vietnam, where the Central Propaganda Department holds mandatory weekly meetings with local newspaper editors to hand down directives on which topics should be emphasized or censored in their news coverage.
  7. Iran, which uses detention as a means of silencing dissent and forcing journalists into exile.
  8. China, which passed Document 9, which says the role of media is to support the party’s unilateral rule.
  9. Myanmar, where the Printers and Publishers Registration Law was enacted in March 2014 and bans news that could be considered insulting to religion, disturbing to the rule of law, or harmful to ethnic unity.
  10. Cuba, where the few independent journalists trying to report in the country are still subject to harassment and short-term detention.

A free press is vitally important to a democracy, even if you disagree with what is being reported.

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