June 2, 2016, marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles. Video by Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral.com
It’s there in the first line of the Bill of Rights, listed by James Madison among the country’s core freedoms: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”
This June marks 41 years since The Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles was murdered in the course of pursuing First Amendment freedom. Now, in a time of spiking political tension and “alternative facts,” journalists around the world find themselves under attack again.
In America, reporters have been assaulted and arrested for asking questions. A press-freedom advocacy group ranked the United States No. 43 in its World Press Freedom Index.
In some other countries, journalists simply disappear; 17 have been killed in 2017, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Here are some recent incidents involving reporters:
On the day before Montana’s special election to fill its only congressional seat, Republican candidate Greg Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault after allegedly “body slamming” Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, who had repeatedly asked Gianforte about a report on Republicans’ healthcare bill.
An audio recording of the incident captured Jacobs asking twice about the bill, followed by a loud scuffle. “I’m sick and tired of you guys!” Gianforte yelled, and then allegedly grabbed Jacobs around the neck and threw him to the ground.
The next day, Gianforte was elected to Congress.
After a news conference at the Federal Communications Commission’s headquarters in Washington, CQ Roll Call reporter John M. Donnelly approached FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly to ask a follow-up question. Before he could, two plainclothes security guards grabbed Donnelly and pinned him against a wall, then escorted him out of the building.
O’Reilly walked past and said nothing.
In May, Mexican reporter Javier Valdez Cardenas was pulled from his car and shot more than a dozen times, becoming the sixth journalist killed in Mexico in 2017. Mexican journalists covering government corruption and ever-powerful drug cartels have become targets in a country that Reporters Without Borders, a press-freedom advocacy group, ranked as the deadliest for journalists in the Western Hemisphere.
A reporter for the Public News Service of West Virginia was arrested and charged with “disruption of government processes” after asking Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway about the treatment of pre-existing conditions under the proposed American Health Care Act.
The reporter, Daniel Ralph Heyman, said he approached Price and Conway in West Virginia’s Capitol building, and when they ignored his questions, he kept asking. After his arrest he was freed on a $5,000 bond, but the misdemeanor could lead to a $100 fine and up to six months in jail.
Amid the steady trickle of leaks from his White House and stories about investigations into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia, President Trump attacked the press on Twitter, claiming the “FAKE NEWS media” fabricates stories and sources and calling the press “the enemy of the American People!”
Investigators from Baja California’s Public Security Secretariat warned Mexican magazine Zeta they had discovered the Jalisco cartel’s plan to shoot at its offices following the magazine’s report that listed alleged cartel leaders. The plan fell through, officers told Zeta, only when the cartel couldn’t find anybody available in the early-morning hours.
Last year, The Republic endorsed a Democratic candidate for president for the first time in its century-long history, calling Hillary Clinton “the only choice to move America ahead.” In the weeks that followed, death threats and demands to cancel subscriptions funneled through the newsroom’s phone lines.
After “Democracy Now!” reporter Amy Goodman filmed and interviewed security guards and activists at protests of the Dakota Access pipeline, a warrant was issued for her arrest. Goodman was charged with criminal trespass. The North Dakota State Attorney prosecuting her case called her “a protester, basically,” and said there was no difference in her attending the protests as an activist or a journalist.
The special report has now been viewed more than 14 million times on Facebook.
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