Guest Op-ed: Count Our Blessings for Freedom of the Press

By Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

We go about our daily lives in the United States of America. We read newspapers in the U.S. and via internet we have access to myriad newspapers around the world. But how often do we stop and consider press freedom? How often do we count our blessings when we peruse social media news outlets? How often do we show gratitude to journalists and people that bring us the news?

USA. The First Amendment, which protects freedom of the press, was adopted on Dec. 15, 1791, as part of the Bill of Rights.

UN. May 3 was proclaimed World Press Freedom Day the UN General Assembly in 1993.

According to 2017 report from Freedom House, a U.S. based nonprofit, only 13 percent of the world’s population experiences a free press.

North Korea is identified as one of the most oppressive countries for silencing journalists and information via “harassment, arrest, torture or killing” according to a 2019 NPR article and Reporters Without Borders.

Read the following excerpt from Lee Kwang Baek, president of a press freedom newspaper in North Korea.

“Daily NK’s mission is to remain your trusted source of news generated from within North Korea, providing timely and accurate information about one of the most repressive regimes in human history. The North Korean regime continues to violate the rights of the North Korean people, while threatening the international community with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles…Daily NK directly supports a robust network of dedicated citizen journalists inside the country, who risk their lives on a daily basis to share news from the ground. In turn, we broadcast these reports back to the people of North Korea and the entire world. In doing so, we hope to advance the cause of freedom and give the oppressed people of North Korea the voice they deserve.”

Press Freedom in the U.S.

“When journalists are obstructed, so is the public’s right to be informed and hold power to account. The United States has some of the strongest legal free speech protections in the world, and serves as a beacon for press freedom in a world where journalists are routinely censored, attacked, or imprisoned for their work. But the U.S. record is imperfect, and journalists and advocates must tirelessly defend the First Amendment in courts, in legislatures, and in the media. Constant vigilance and an honest accounting of the country’s track record on press freedom are essential.”

Threats to Press Freedom in U.S.

What is the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker? “The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker aims to comprehensively document press freedom violations in the United States committed by national, state, and local authorities, as well as by private individuals. These include: journalist arrests, assaults, border stops, camera and equipment seizures, surveillance orders, subpoenas, and more.”

Will you stand up and defend press freedom in your hometown, state, and country? Will you stand up and defend press freedom for all countries on our planet?

This holiday season let us remember the journalists killed in the line of duty, both home and abroad and those falsely imprisoned.

Let us stop and count our blessings for press freedom in the United States of America.

“Oil may run out, liquidity may dry up, but as long as ink flows freely, the next chapter of Life will continue to be written.” -Alex Morritt

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. Contact her at [email protected].

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