Is our freedom of press in peril

Danny Montesdeoca, Production Staff

The U.S. has a luxury that some countries in the world can’t enjoy: freedom of the press.

The press is sometimes called the fourth estate or fourth branch of government. They provide checks and balances for the other three branches of government by reporting on issues and events fairly and without bias.

Often times a  journalist’s  job puts them into a position of predicaments. Take the journalists covering the Dakota Access Pipeline protest in North Dakota. According to The Jamestown Sun, at least seven journalist have been arrested for doing their job. This includes award winning host of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman, and journalist-filmmaker, Deia Schlosberg.

Though charges against the journalist and filmmaker have since been dropped, it doesn’t change the fact that methods of suppressing the press are being openly practiced.

The Dakota Access Pipeline has become infamous. The clashes between protesters and private security and police have infiltrated most areas of the media. In Sept., private security used pepper spray and dogs to attack protesters, as reported by Goodman. This footage would be used to later charge Goodman with criminal trespassing.

There have also been incidents of the confiscation of cameras and other equipment by police rendering journalists incapable of doing their jobs.Other journalists have faced rubber bullets at point blank range simply for doing what they get paid to do.

Journalists have a job that comes with a moral responsibility almost on par with being an educator. They have the responsibility to cover issues and events that have a real impact on the lives of real people. They are responsible for providing adequate context. They are responsible for keeping our elected officials in check by reporting on what they are and aren’t doing.

It’s because of the work that journalists do that the people are able to maintain their checks and balances over issues they deem the need to be checked and balanced, like the Dakota Access Pipeline. The work of journalists in North Dakota has brought the nation’s attention to yet another example of the exploitation of the indigenous people of North America.

The suppression of journalists in North Dakota comes at a peculiar time.

The main stream media has received heavy criticism after the election of Donald Trump. Not only has the press been under fire for the way they covered Trump during the election, but Trump has also made his disdain for the press public.

According to Think Progress, Trump believes that there is too much protection in our First Amendment and wants to make it easier to sue media companies.

Though it’s unlikely that a Trump presidency will result in the rights of journalists being suppressed, it’s frightening that’s even a possibility. A journalist’s job holds value in society.

Journalists covering events and issues that affect real people, like the Dakota Access Pipeline, deserve to be treated with respect and should be allowed to do their job without the fear of being criminally charged.

But if you’re a journalist and you do get criminally charged for ethically doing your job right, then you might be covering something worthwhile.