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October 18, 2016

Free Press? This Journalist faced Prison for doing her job…until Yesterday.

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*Editor’s note: Disagree with this Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience and viewpoint, as long as respectfully and mindfully offered. Join the conversation by commenting below or submit your own piece here.

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In times when it’s becoming harder and harder to recall what honest, unbiased journalism looks like, she is my hero.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! stood in front of a judge today, facing criminal charges for exercising her First Amendment rights as a journalist.

Her charges were dismissed yesterday. But let’s pause for a moment before we celebrate.

The First Amendment states:

Freedom of the press protects the right to obtain and publish information or opinions without government censorship or fear of punishment. Censorship occurs when the government examines publications and productions and prohibits the use of material it finds offensive. Freedom of press applies to all types of printed and broadcast material, including books, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, films and radio and television programs.

In the United States, the government may not prevent the publication of a newspaper, even when there is reason to believe that it is about to reveal information that will endanger our national security. By the same token, the government cannot:

Impose criminal penalties, or civil damages, on the publication of truthful information about a matter of public concern or even on the dissemination of false and damaging information about a public person except in rare instances.

After trespassing charges against Goodman were dismissed, the state tried to press forward with a second charge: engaging in a riot.

The North Dakota judge who heard her case refused to authorize the riot charges against her on the grounds there was not enough evidence to warrant the charges being filed against Goodman. In a statement released after her dismissal she said:

“This is a complete vindication of my right as a journalist to cover the attack on the protesters, and of the public’s right to know what is happening with the Dakota Access pipeline,” said Goodman. “We will continue to report on this epic struggle of Native Americans and their non-Native allies taking on the fossil fuel industry and an increasingly militarized police in this time when climate change threatens the planet.”

The initial charges were brought against Goodman after her footage of private security personnel attacking Dakota Access Pipeline protestors with guard dogs and pepper spray went viral.

If this doesn’t bother you, I suggest you take a moment go back over that First Amendment.

In an Orwellian Big Brother-esque reality, this whole case reeks of intimidation and suppression of information. Amy Goodman was at Standing Rock and she reported and recorded what was occurring in real time—real journalism, which is rare these days. More often than not we have to second guess everything we read, and pause to look at the source before we can decide if it’s legitimate, unbiased, real news. It frequently seems that just to get the gist of an event, I have to read four different reports of the same event, and then critically think my way through who wrote them, what site they are on, what media corporation owns that, and who stands to benefit from the event.

Once upon a time, a journalist went on a mission to uncover a story. They would seek out the story—the hard facts of the story, and report them. Walter Cronkite stormed Normandy with the 101st Airborne Division. Amy Goodman is on par with what seems to be an almost lost breed of journalist. The responsibility of the journalist is to the public, not to the government and not to the corporations. The American Press Institute’s The Elements of Journalism states that:

“Journalism has the unusual capacity to serve as the watchdog over those whose power and position most affect citizens.”

Where has this responsibility gone?

In a second unrelated story that has been going under-reported, a documentary filmmaker and journalist Deia Schlosberg was arrested and charged with three counts of felony, carrying a maximum sentence of up to 45 years in prison—for reporting on the protests against the fossil fuel industry. She documented a climate change demonstration and was then arrested and held, without bail or lawyer contact for 48 hours, and her footage confiscated. She is being charged with Conspiracy to theft of property, Conspiracy to theft of services, Conspiracy to tampering with or damaging a public service.

Is this America?

We can’t even talk about Second Amendment without tempers flaring and debates igniting. Not even civilized debates really—more like ignorant rampages of name calling, yelling and empty threats. But you know what I mean. Here’s where I ask myself, why do we stand by silently as the state goes after one of the few remaining people in this country who are willing to go to the front lines and report what is actually happening, rather than some watered down, distorted version of the truth written in the exclusive interest of whichever corporate entity is inflicting its incessant greed on us at any given moment.

I know why. I see why. We are brainwashed, America. We have been duped into believing that we have no power. That nothing we do matters, so why try. Caring is too hard because we are being tricked into believing we are powerless. “Sh*t. If it takes all that effort I mentioned above to get a grip on one one current event through the ‘news,’ what the f*ck will it take to effect some change here?” I ask myself every single day.

I know the effort is real. And I know its daunting. But we cannot go on like this. We cannot allow for privatized interests of fossil fuels to continue to violate our rights as Americans. We have to stop allowing ourselves to be distracted by whatever story is being delivered to us in order to make us look the other way. Alone we can’t make a difference, but together we can.

I challenge you now, my fellow humans, dig deeper—beyond what mainstream media is reporting. The truth usually lies somewhere between what the really loud networks are reporting. In a time where news anchors lie to the nation (Brian Williams and Fox News), use your mind to weed through the bullsh*t. Don’t fall for the propaganda machine.

“This is the secret of propaganda: To totally saturate the person, whom the propaganda wants to lay hold of, with the ideas of the propaganda, without him even noticing that he is being saturated.” ~ Paul Watziawick

We need real journalism more than ever. We need truth. Society needs truth. Journalists are warriors of truth. They bring true information to the people, and information is what gives us our power back. We have to think critically. And we have to take action.

Let’s use our voices and let our officials know that we will not stand for this blatant violation of the First Amendment.

If you would like to raise your voice in support of Deia Schlosberg, you can find that information here.

Let’s take our country back, America. We’re all in this together.

I encourage you now to be a journalist in a world of propaganda. Find the real story in a world of hype. Dig for the facts. Then spread those around amidst the idle mind numbing gossip we have all been sucked into. Plant a seed. Be the change. Spark a thought. Be a warrior of truth.

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Author: Lindsey Carricarte

Image: News screenshot 

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

 

 

 

 

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