The Press Strikes Back

Αssociated press

FILE - President Donald Trump speaks in Utica, N.Y., Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, at a joint fundraising committee reception in Utica, N.Y. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

(Thomas Jefferson)

On August 16, 2018, at least 200 newspapers across the United States, some of the largest and the smallest, published separate editorials pointing to the dangers, not only to themselves but to the country as well, created by the barrage of poison-filled attacks that they and other media receive. The initiative belongs to the Boston Globe, which contacted the other newspapers and asked for their participation. We would like this comment to be considered as our own participation in this initiative.

The hateful, totally debilitating attacks on the media over the last few years are unprecedented in modern times, at least in America. Indicatively, in a recent speech in Pennsylvania, President Trump pointed to the reporters who covered him and said what they were doing was “manufacturing news” and indeed “fake, fake, disgusting news.”

In addition, and worse, Mr. Trump has repeatedly described the media as “enemies of the people,” an expression based on Germany's Nazi regime.

These attacks, coming from the president of the country, have serious implications.

Even the physical integrity of journalists, some of who must now travel with bodyguards, is threatened; threats to their offices force some of them to hire security.

We fully understand that newspapers may become unpleasant to the people in power, of whatever power, from political to ecclesiastical. But that is the role of the media. The control of power. Without control, given the nature of man, those who hold power will slide into dictatorship, plunge into the garbage dump of opacity and corruption, violate human rights, and ultimately they will not serve the interests of the people, but their own. Freedom and justice will be impacted.

That is why Thomas Jefferson, who lived in Paris shortly before the French Revolution began in 1789 and was aware of the situation, had said that if he had to choose between a government without newspapers and newspapers without a government, he would unequivocally choose the latter.”

We are the last to claim that all newspapers and other media perform their duty in an exemplary manner. Of course not. Everyone has such examples in mind. However, while these cases should be condemned, the general, harsh attacks on newspapers are harmful to the country because their main goal is self-censorship. The lack of information to the public.

Also, what happens in the United States is copied, like so many other things, to some degree in other countries as well. You see it clearly in Greece where the government does everything it can to control the media, and you see how prevalent it is in Turkey. Among the first acts of the then-newly elected Prime Minister Erdogan was control of the media. And here are the results: perhaps nothing could stop Erdogan on the downhill path that followed toward authoritarianism and corruption and perhaps nothing could have stopped the economic crisis in Greece, either. However, there is no doubt that an independent press would have very much moderate, the crisis at least.

The salvo of more than 200 newspapers against the undermining of their most valuable asset, their credibility, is not so much an attack on the president, but a presentation of society's need for an independent press.

So much happens when there is an independent voice checking power, think about what would happen if it did not exist.