It’s no secret that the year 2020 has thrown punch after punch as we go about our daily lives. First, it was Australia burning. Then a pandemic broke out and halted most of society, with everything moving online. Now, an act of violence once again has people protesting and rioting, demanding change to the system currently in place.
There is a lot of unrest right now, and it can be hard to see what will happen next. Something that I saw online the other day, though, has me incredibly worried. What I refer to is the video which went viral a few weeks ago, where a CNN reporter is arrested with no explanation by a Minneapolis police officer.
In the video, CNN reporter Omar Jimenez identified himself as a reporter along with his camera crew. He then began to describe the scene to the camera, only to have one of the nearby officers arrest him with no explanation despite Jimenez asking to know why.
As someone who works in media, this was a chilling scene to witness. Jimenez was willing to cooperate with what the officers wanted him to do, evidenced by the reporter repeatedly asking where the police wanted them to stand, only to wind up being restrained and walked away from his crew.
When things like the situation in Minneapolis are happening, it is more important now than ever for the United States to maintain its freedom of the press. Journalists and the media, in general, hold the government accountable and inform the people of what is happening in the world around them, and to silence that voice would be incredibly dangerous.
There is a reason the founding fathers of our country included freedom of the press as part of the Bill of Rights, and in the very first amendment for that matter. The press is supposed to act as a check against the government by the people, just like any other checks and balances as written in the Constitution.
Throughout history, nearly every dictator who has risen to power has stayed thereby controlling what can and cannot be said in the media. Information is one of the most powerful weapons available, and fascist regimes have always warped the facts in their favor and turned their media into propaganda peddlers.
I’m sure some people are thinking, “It’s just one reporter and he was even released! It’s not that big of a deal.” But, it’s a slippery slope. Normalization happens slowly, over time, in increments. Disregarding something because it seems to be an isolated incident and because it was resolved is one step along the way. Now a precedent has been set.
The good news is that the press hasn’t been censored en masse as of now. The people of the United States have the right to have a voice, and that often comes in the form of reporters asking elected officials tough questions. It is crucial that this freedom is maintained because, in order to affect positive change and improve the world, people need to know what is happening first.