Editorial: Democracy teeters in nation’s big cities as press is silenced

hat’s going on in our nation’s big cities? Police are swooping in with full-on military tactics, including air support from helicopters in one city, riot gear, pepper spray, tear gas and automatic weapons to do what? Bust up non-violent groups of American citizens protesting the corporate greed that has decimated the nation’s middle class and enriched the rich? That hardly justifies a military-style assault.
The protestors are American citizens who, for the past two months, have conducted orderly and peaceful demonstrations — other than those incidents in which the police have provoked confrontation.
But the early Tuesday morning raid in New York City of the Occupy Wall Street protesters took the police action a step further: conducting the raid at night and purposely restricting the press from covering the manner in which the police were enforcing their action. In that raid, in which the New York Police Department forcibly evacuated protesters from Zuccotti Park, the police specifically barred many journalists from reporting the scene.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he ordered the police to keep the media away “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press,” but it was plainly an effort to silence the press so the public could not judge for themselves whether the police tactics were excessive or appropriate.
What we hope American citizens do not do is regard the journalists’ calls for the right to cover police actions as special treatment to a privileged group — as if journalists were colleagues of the police rather than watchdogs. Such lines can be easily blurred.
In Iraq, for instance, the Bush administration insisted that press members could be embedded with troops, but not roam freely on their own. Consequently, much of the best reporting in those early days of the war was from the foreign press, while the American press corps was compromised.
Far from seeking special privilege, journalists in a democracy must be allowed to freely report on the actions of our government without the police considering them as participants if that story is to be told. In the case of ousting OWS protestors for public encampments, the journalists were doing their jobs in trying to cover the action — accepting any personal risk that may come in that line of duty— but also were subject to arrest by government agents.
That’s akin to arresting firefighters beyond police lines, preventing them from doing their jobs. That would be absurd. But if American citizens cannot get uncensored information about the affairs of government, democracy is the loser and a stronger, militant government is one outcome.
If the mayor of the nation’s largest city thinks it’s OK to order police action in the dark of night and prevent accurate press coverage by silencing all media, the nation is in trouble. According to the New York Times,one journalist told a police officer “I’m press!” and the officer simply responded, “Not tonight.”
Nor is Bloomberg alone. Police in Portland, Chicago, Denver, Oakland and other cities have roughed up, arrested, shoved out of the way and denied journalists access to areas in an effort to deny the public an accurate portrayal of the story. It’s a sorry and dangerous trend of the times.
The freedom of this country is largely based on the First Amendment, which states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Hopefully, Americans of every political persuasion grasp the significance of such restrictions on the press, and on those seeking to peacefully assemble, and recognize it as a blow against our democracy.
Angelo S. Lynn

Share this story:

More News
US Probation Office Uncategorized

US Probation Office Request for Proposals

US Probation Office 2×1.5 062024 RFP

Middlebury American Legion Uncategorized

Middlebury American Legion Annual Meeting

Middlebury American Legion 062024 1×1.5 Annual Meeting

Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Share this story: