Donald Trump has continuously attacked the media throughout his campaign and presidency in hopes that their reports on his shortcomings will be discredited. Whether it’s a five a.m. rant on Twitter or in an interview with Sixty Minutes, our president has made clear that the media is his enemy. Now, his words are becoming actions, and his toxic distrust of the media is spilling over into the mainstream.
On May 9th, reporter Dan Heyman from the Public News Service was arrested after asking a question to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. Price was visiting the West Virginia capital building with Kellyanne Conway. Heyman asked Price, who had supported the American Health Care Act, if being a victim of domestic violence would count as a pre-existing condition under the Act, which severely cut down what insurers must legally cover. After Price did not answer, Heyman repeated the question, and told Price that if he did not wish to answer, Price could say, “No comment.” Heyman, who had a press pass, was put in handcuffs and arrested for “causing a disturbance by yelling questions at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price.” Later on, Conway and Secretary Price praised the police for making the drastic move.
Heyman was put in jail, and released after the Public News Service paid $5,000 bail. He could face up to six months in prison for ‘disrupting government process.” The criminal complaint against him does not say that he was shouting in the hallways of a government building, not in a closed meeting or a private office.
No matter where you are politically, this should concern you as a citizen of the free world. The press keeps us informed of those we have elected, and any time the government silences them, we are shut out of politics. The ACLU of West Virginia released a statement, saying, “Those who don’t want transparency in the literal halls of government have no business putting themselves in the political spotlight.” Incidents like Heyman’s are not arbitrary, and this is not an isolated incident. Because America has a president who portrays the media as his enemy, reporters will continue to be arrested simply for doing their job.
The press exists to inform the people, not serve the politicians. It is crucial to a free society that reporters question the policies and platforms presented by our politicians as they must be able to inform the voters and the general public about exactly who is leading them. When a nation is presented with a president like Trump, who has singlehandedly given life to the phrase “fake news”, the entire democracy is at risk. When the press is controlled, so are the people.
Justice Hugo Black once said of the 1971 Pentagon Papers case, “The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.” It is evident that Trump, and his administrators, have never heard this advice.