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Rest In Peace, First Amendment: The Press Are In Chains Now Too

The George Floyd case has sparked riots across Minnesota, as buildings have been burned and police stations have been stormed. In the Floyd case, multiple police officers had kneeled on Floyd’s neck, suffocating him to his death. While the main police officer has been charged, the Justice for Floyd movement has sparked violence around the state. Roads have been closed and buildings have been taped off across Minnesota. 

As the violence in Minneapolis slowed down, reporters came to the scene in order to understand what had happened and reported on the aftermath of the crisis. One of those reporters was Omar Jimenez. But Omar Jimenez didn’t really get to cover the news this morning. Instead, he was arrested. 

Jimenez is a CNN reporter who has been working with the outlet for several years. He’s covered notable events such as the burning of Notre Dame. The video released from the incident shows Jimenez and his two-person crew talking to state patrol police. In the footage from the arrests, Jimenez is stopped and told he is in the wrong place. Jimenez then offers to relocate to anywhere where the officers might see fit, but after a long silence, two police members approach from behind Jimenez and suddenly cuff and start dragging him off the scene. When Jimenez asks why he was arrested, the police don’t even bother providing an answer. Following Jimenez being led off, the crew is then stripped of their gear, and they are also led away by police. 

Although Jimenez was eventually released after an hour or so, his arrest should still spark worry for the free press, which has been dying in the United States for a few years at this point. Under the Trump 2016 campaign and into the Trump administration, the press has been referred to as the enemy of people and public enemy #1. Journalist after journalist has been screamed at for trying to provide real news to the American people. Under Sean Spicer, the first White House Press Secretary, cameras were no longer allowed in White House Press Conferences. Then, Jim Acosta, chief White House Correspondent for CNN, had his press pass stripped after he asked too many questions. The pattern of press bullying happened again and again, even as the press secretary switched into the hands of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and then again to Stephanie Grisham, and finally to Kayleigh McEnany. 

No where has President Trump’s rampant case of press bullying been more apparent than the recent coronavirus briefings. When Peter Alexander (NBC) asked Trump to provide words of assurance to the American people, Trump called him a bad journalist. When Weijia Jiang (ABC) asked Trump why he was making coronavirus testing a competition between countries, he asked her to “ask China,” and then abruptly shut her down from further questions. Even Fox News is no longer the favorite media outlet, as the outlet has started to distance itself from journalists underestimating the impacts of coronavirus. Trump released a comment on his relationship with Fox News, where he said that he believed that the outlet should stand beside him, no matter the circumstance. 

Trump’s view on the media is already twisted: no media outlet should have to twist the facts in order to please a politician, or deem outlets trying to help the people understand current events “enemies.” Under his administration, the constant screaming at the press, combined with unjustified removals of press passes, just show that the free press is in danger. However, Omar Jimenez’s arrest shows a new level of danger that the American press has just stepped into. Democracies don’t arrest the press: dictatorships do. 

Without the free press, there’s no way that America would be where it is today. Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States Government, emphasized the role the press has in holding the government accountable. The press has been the driving force behind major reforms in the United States, such as the establishment of a platform for women’s rights, coverage of the Vietnam war, the leakage of the pentagon papers and the Monica Lewinsky affair. But now, in the Trump administration, journalists are punished for carrying out their duty: telling the truth. 

Jimenez’s arrest marks the start of the most dangerous era for the press, as America distances itself further and further away from one of the founding principles of Democracy. Journalists should be able to exercise their right to report in any scene. They are putting themselves in danger for the American people to tell them the truth. They’ve hardly been punished before. Starting today, the fight for truth enters a new, more dangerous stage. Americans need to stand with the press and see how twisted America has become. The press are by no means the enemy of the people. 

In this time of need, there are many ways that Americans can continue to support the press. The Committee to Protect Journalists is dedicated to protecting journalists from around the world who report on real issues but are censored by their governments. They aim to provide resources to all journalists on how to keep themselves safe while covering different issues, including protests and accept donations. Signing petitions advocating for the preservation of the press is also a great thing to do if funds are tight. Now, with the world more torn apart than ever before, we must find stability in the press and stand up for it, instead of letting it plunge further and further into the dust.

Featured Image via CNN @ 2:01

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Joanna Hou
Written By

Joanna Hou is a 16 year old high school student based in San Diego, California. She is passionate about current events, law, and politics. She is an avid writer, journalist, and musician (euphonium and flute). In her spare time, she enjoys reading and boba. Instagram: joannah_11

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