Gray D., Senior
Ever since the Bill of Rights was ratified and introduced into the constitution, the first amendment has granted citizens the rights to the freedom of speech and of the press, peaceably assemble, and petition the government for redress of grievances. These basic human rights are what enable U.S citizens to have a say in the government, and with the first amendment, we can speak freely, voice our opinions, and not fear of any censorship or punishment from government officials. But, in today’s world of politics, all of this is changing.
As president Donald Trump continues his second year in office, he has begun to dismantle many existing policies. Early November, CNN journalist Jim Acosta was denied entry to the White House after he refused to give up a microphone during his questioning of Trump at a press conference. Later that month, CNN prosecuted the Trump Administration in order to regain Acosta’s credentials (BBC). Although Acosta was eventually able to gain his credentials back, his first amendment rights were violated when the president attempted to maneuver through laws and rights to consolidate his own power.
In an interview with Julia Whiston, the ex-director for the Washington Press Club Foundation and Executive Director of the White House Correspondents’ Association, she explains how the President is “bending the rules.” Whiston states that “although he never uses the word censorship, Trump always finds a way to create a positive image upon himself.” She also explained that “past presidents held daily press conferences so the public can be informed on current events, but Trump refuses to hold them, and he has only had one this month.” In addition to these questionable conferences, Trump has become the most media-obsessed president in American history (for example, his twitter account), and has long recognized and exploited its power to assist him. Although it can be hard to recognize, the internet allows the president to hide from journalist and press who will question his integrity. I believe that Trump’s need to use a highly publicized internet platform affects his abilities as the leader of our nation, as he uses this outlet as an alternative to reliable press. This action spreads the message that these two kinds of communication with the public are equally valid, when in reality his internet messages are often false, not fact checked, or highly exaggerated versions of the truth.
Freedom of the press is now under siege. We have come to a point where the internet and the rise of related technologies present an opportunity to elude traditional threats to freedom of expression, and in the end, introduce new dangers. For example, over the past couple of years, the United States has made advances in digital surveillance and monitoring, ultimately furthering the intimidation factor that can suppress, and even threaten journalists. Journalists around the U.S. are now facing self-censorship, as they are afraid of the consequences and punishment of their voice. This situation has only gotten worse since Donald Trump took office.
Without our basic and essential rights established by the constitution, we will have little to no voice in our own government. If we decide to be pushed down this vicious path, we will lose our freedom, and will be restricted through technology, our government, and fear of punishment. How can we claim membership in a society that advertises liberty if we are constantly being stripped of our basic rights?
We once lived in a society where our government protected our rights. Who will protect us now?