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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    U.S. press should look to examples set by foreign journalists

    We often think of journalists struggling against oppressive governments while dealing with threats and violence. Some of these countries include Syria, China, Iran, Sudan and most recently, Mexico.

    The drug war that has engulfed the border cities for six years brings to mind immigration, drug and human smuggling and cross-border violence. Further down the list is freedom of the press.

    This year, the UA School of Journalism presented the annual John Peter and Anna Catherine Zenger Award to two journalists who stand for freedom of speech: Rocío Gallegos Rodríguez and Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, for their work covering violence against women, drug cartels and related crimes for El Diario de Juárez.

    Juárez has been a center for border violence for years, and Mexico has been labeled “the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.”

    Since the war on drugs began in 2006, 67 journalists have been killed in Mexico. Many more are threatened, harassed and intimidated.

    But Gallegos and Rodríguez represent the struggle for freedom of the press with their struggles through the threats and harassment they receive, as well as a non-responsive government that wages a war in which it ignores its own people.

    This should be a standard that journalists should strive for, regardless of how free or oppressed the media is in their home countries, because in the future these roles could be reversed. A perfect example is the U.S., and just beyond the southern border of Mexico.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, Latin America was one of the worst places a journalist could be located. With the continent covered by military dictatorships and oppressive regimes, journalists and other political activists were sometimes “disappeared” at the hands of the government, and often were never seen or heard from again.

    Since those governments fell in the late 1980s, freedom of the press has certainly not flourished in Central or South America, but it has taken significant steps toward achieving a system where information flows freely.

    Press freedom in the U.S. seems to be trending the other way, unfortunately. This year, the U.S. fell 27 places to 47th in press freedom in rankings by Reporters Without Borders. This is mainly “owing to the many arrests of journalists covering Occupy Wall Street protests,” according to the organization.

    There are other factors that should worry citizens about the impending fate of free information — increasingly limited access to government documents due to national security issues (perceived or real), increasing self-censorship and the recently developed phenomena of sources expecting to be anonymous instead of anonymity being an agreement under rare circumstances.

    To keep journalism from declining in the U.S., reporters should look to figures like Gallegos and Rodríguez. Even though, regrettably, the U.S. government has been less responsive to the press, it is a much easier government to deal with than with Mexico’s.

    Reporters should be able to make bold decisions in order to protect the profession, and not worry about arrests, the self-censorship culture, or even governmental niceties (“We respectfully ask you not to print this”).

    If journalists can follow Gallegos and Rodríguez’s examples by being bold and accountable not to the government, but to readers, viewers and citizens, the U.S. press can rise from being one of America’s least trusted institutions to one of the highest.

    — Andres Dominguez is a senior studying journalism and political science. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @ReporterAndres .

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