Autocrats around the world have declared open season on journalists. If America is to keep its republic, the same trend in the U.S. must be reversed

Around the world in 2021, 24 journalists were killed because of the work they were doing.

Another 18 died in circumstances in which they may or may not have been the target. The total number of journalists jailed also reached a record high in 2021 of 293, according to a report released in December by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The reason journalists are targeted isn’t hard to figure out. China has jailed the most journalists for three straight years. After a military coup last year, Myanmar took second place on the list of bad actors, ahead of Egypt, Vietnam and Belarus.

Autocratic governments led by dictators averse to scrutiny are the common denominator in this equation. Nor are those five countries the only bad actors when it comes to freedom of the press.

Nine journalists were killed in Mexico last year, more than the number jailed. Countries around the world are risky places to work as a journalist.

Developing countries and those with fragile democracies under attack by military-backed players are not the only places that journalists are under attack. The former president of the United States referred to the press as the “enemy of the people.” The comment harkened back to the attacks on journalists in the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

A journalist’s job is to find the facts and then tell everyone what they know. It is an especially important role when they turn their attention to government actions and public officials.

Even the Charles Koch Institute, an organization whose namesake is famous for his libertarian and conservative views, notes on its website: “News organizations expose corruption and cover-ups, deceptions and deceits, illegal actions and unethical behavior—and they hold our leaders and our institutions accountable, whether it’s a rural county in Kentucky or the state government in Illinois.”

Media bashing is nothing new in the U.S. The institute noted further that George Washington complained about “the infamous scribblers.” But the founding fathers knew that freedom of the press was the only way to ensure freedom from government oppression.

Physical intimidation is only one way to stifle information. The courageous journalists who cover everything from shooting wars to corrupt governments do their work despite death threats, which have become far too real.

On Christmas Eve, a New York trial judge tried another. He blocked The New York Times from publishing information related to Project Veritas, a conservative political group. This prior restraint flies in the face of consistent U.S. Supreme Court precedents. The government, which includes the courts, is not allowed to tell the press what it can or cannot publish.

Journalists are the enemy of autocrats trying to gain or hold power by force rather than the rule of law. They are the enemy of government officials who illegally or unethically enrich themselves. For everyone else, journalists are the people’s guardians.


“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to editorialboard@mtexpress.com.

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