Call Me an ‘Honorary Enemy of the People’
With only one course in journalism and even with a lot of help from a dog-eared 2007 “Associated Press Stylebook,” I hardly qualify as a journalist.
Fortunately, because of the freedom of
the press expression we enjoy in our country, I have been privileged to be able to freely express my thoughts and opinions here and in many other media outlets.
Perhaps I owe whatever little journalistic qualities I have to my grandfather, “Papá Justito” who was indeed a periodista (a journalist) in my native Ecuador during a time of great political turmoil.
But even in “those days,” the 1940s, and even in a country that has had its ups and downs when it comes to freedom of the press, I do not believe that Papá Justito was ever called an “enemy of the people.”
Today, in countries that we sometimes derisively call “banana republics” or whose leaders we call despots, dictators or tyrants, journalists and reporters are indeed considered the enemies of the people and treated accordingly, sometimes with fatal consequences to those journalists.
On November 2, 2017, “International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists,” the State Department hypocritically lauded the work of journalists around the world and cited examples of nations – Russia, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Turkey, etc. – where “journalists are often under threat from those who wish to silence them.” State added, “In too many parts of the world, crimes against journalists go unpunished.”
On May 3, 2018, on the 25th anniversary of “World Press Freedom Day,” a day that “celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom,” State once again disingenuously proclaimed:
…we renew our commitment to promoting and protecting a free press, which is an essential pillar of democracy.
The United States values freedom of the press as a key component of democratic governance. By fostering a free press, citizens are more informed, active and engaged in political decision-making, and can better hold their governments accountable.
Today, we honor the many journalists and media actors who have dedicated their lives, often at great risk, to promote transparency and accountability throughout the world.
Yet, only six months later, when the Trump administration had the indisputable moral opportunity –- obligation — to “put money where mouth is,” it failed miserably.
That is when the world saw a horrific example of how journalists “who have dedicated their lives, often at great risk…” are “silenced”
That is when Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was cold-bloodedly murdered and gruesomely dismembered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, allegedly on orders from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Why call Trump’s State Department’s words chastising those who “wish to silence” journalists and supposedly honoring journalists who “have dedicated their lives, often at great risk,” hypocritical and disingenuous?
Because, in this case, instead of the Trump administration, including its State Department, doing everything in their power to protect freedom of the press, to protect journalists, they have done everything in their power to obfuscate, deny and deflect and to protect the Saudi monarch — even after the U.S. Senate “put the blame for the death of Khashoggi squarely on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”
Trump’s attacks on a free press are legion and too numerous to even summarize.
However, one attack on the media – in this case CNN – is especially heinous.
Barely three weeks after the Khashoggi murder, the nation was rattled when a dozen or so pipe bombs were sent to critics of Trump, including CNN.
After first condemning the “terrorizing acts,” Trump could not help himself and was soon his old, repugnant freedom-of-the-press-hating self again, once more calling the press, “The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People.”
How can we view Trump’s praise for and promises to foreign press members other than hypocritical, disingenuous — if not dishonest — in light of his shameful attacks on his own journalists.
Who knows what Trump would call my grandfather, Justo Rodríguez Gómez de la Torre, if he was still living and spoke his conscience.
Again, I am by no means a journalist, but I would be proud to be called an “honorary enemy of the people.”
Lead image: Author’s grandmother and grandfather.