BY DANIEL SAENZ
On June 28, 2018, there was an attack on the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland where five journalists lost their lives in the shooting. What would motivate someone to commit such a heinous act? The Gazette had reported on the shooting suspect’s domestic abuse arrests. However, what also does not help matters is that Milo Yiannopoulos, a conservative firebrand, said only a few days before the event that he could not wait until “vigilantes start gunning down journalists.”
Unfortunately, such attitudes about journalists are not uncommon in the world we live in. I had the good fortune to interview Sara, a Turkish intern spending the summer in Egypt. Sara also happens to be a supporter of the People’s Democratic Party in Turkey (HDP in Turkish), as well as the state of journalism in Turkey and the general political situation.
HDP is the left-wing progressive party in Turkey that is currently facing a severe crackdown from President Erdogan’s conservative Islamist government. Due to the party’s pro-Kurdish stance amidst the government’s struggle with its Kurdish population, Selahattin Demirtas, the longtime leader of the progressive party, has been jailed, but was still somehow running from the presidency due to the massive underground support that the party has.
“I cannot even tell my friends that I vote for this party because as far as everyone else is concerned, that would make me a terrorist sympathizer,” Sara said when explaining the situation in Turkey. “Here, Erdogan has successfully taken control of all the Turkish media. So, we are unable to access honest political analysis on any matter from any Turkish source.”
Not to mention, dissidents against the Erdogan regime are often jailed on phony charges of terrorism. A similar dynamic can be found in countries like Mexico, where journalists are regularly kidnapped, tortured, raped, and sometimes killed. Russia is another cliché example of this attack on journalism at work. Journalists that dare to question Putin’s rule often die from poisoning, strangulation, or just simply “disappear”.
The job of journalists is to speak truth to power and give the general population the facts as they are. Those of us in the journalistic community should take stand for the truth and speak out against the threats that those in our profession face on a daily basis. Why? Because for society to flourish, the public must know the truth. Whether it regards the economy, security, health, or crime, journalists are the force that help the general public know the critical facts about all of these aspects of life.
Think of some of the biggest stories to hit the news in recent years. Abu Ghraib — a secret torture facility run by the CIA in which the US government was found to have employed brutal interrogation methods such as anal probing, mock burials, and death threats — was made public by the efforts of bold civil rights lawyers and journalists who were willing to put their own livelihood on the line for the truth.
Likewise, in countries like Turkey and Russia, the unfortunate decline of freedom and opportunities for many of its citizens was made public by journalists who were brave enough to break these stories before being tortured, kidnapped, or poisoned.
Mexican journalists who report rather bluntly on the sideways dealings with the government and drug cartels, and the growing amount of income inequality in Mexico, put their lives on the line so that the population can be aware of these facts so that they can demand change. Even the Capital Gazette took a stand for truth for making the locals aware of a dangerous person in their vicinity, only to have five of its members killed by the deranged perpetrator.
In short, journalists across the world are doing everyone a favor. Putting all of this in perspective, let us show more appreciation for journalism and treat all attacks on the field with the utmost disdain.