As student journalists, we take freedom of the press seriously. It’s absolutely crucial for the media to have a direct line of communication with the government in order for the people to be informed.
It seems as though President Trump has been trying to bar that communication in a variety of ways. He yelled “fake news!” at CNN reporter and JMU alumnus Jim Acosta before he took the oath of office. He refused to answer Acosta’s question, claiming that CNN’s story about Trump’s alleged ties to Russia was false and the organization was “terrible.” His post-inauguration attitude toward the press isn’t much different.
Beyond cherry picking which news organizations he speaks to, Trump and his administration ordered federal agencies to stop any public communication through “news releases, official social media accounts and correspondence.” These instructions targeted the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Interior, Commerce and Health and Human Services. A previous communication ban on the Department of Agriculture was lifted yesterday.
Censorship isn’t an option. We shouldn’t become a nation that arrests journalists for doing their jobs. Six were arrested at Trump’s inauguration while covering the protests. They could face up to 10 years in jail. We value the people’s right to know what’s going on, and if we rely on the government for our news and information, we may as well give up our First Amendment freedoms.
Our university’s namesake and the other founding fathers specifically included the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment to ensure certain freedoms — like that of the press — would be protected.
We, as journalists, are watchdogs, and we must continue fulfilling this role even if the administration trades transparency for opacity. If those who hold people in power accountable are kept from doing their jobs, the potential corruption is unthinkable.
Robyn Smith: Editor-in-chief
Mike Dolzer: Managing editor- print
Richie Bozek: Managing editor- online
Rachel Petty: Opinion editor
Briana Ellison: Copy editor