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FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

There is no First Amendment protection for hate speech which is direct, personal, truly threatening or violently provocative (civil-rights.lawyers.com)

(Scroll down to take immediate action; see also First Amendment and Fake News sections)

UPDATE 12/7: Protests across the country regarding net neutrality, which is under sharp attack and due to be repealed on 12/15 (short video explains it). See below, and Stop Trump to take action. 12/1: Trump continues his unprecedented and unfounded attack against journalists, undermining the Fourth Estate, our check on government. 11/12: Journalists were kept out of Trump's APEC events during the Asia trip. (AP) 10/19: Activists travelled to DC to tell lawmakers they oppose FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's efforts to eliminate the Title II, Net Neutrality rules protecting a free and open internet (FreePress.net) 10/11: Just like in 1972 (Nixon, Watergate), Trump threatens to strip the broadcast licenses of network news (in this case, NBC) who report news about him he doesn't like (AKA "fake"). (Washington Post) Although news is not licensed by the federal government, these threats must be taken seriously, right now, as they escalate a grave threat to the Fourth Estate (see "learn," below). 8/23: US slips to 43rd place worldwide in press freedom. (Reporters Without Borders) 8/21: Four senior editors at the Los Angeles Times were fired today, suddenly, at once. Ross Levinsohn, who spent 7 years in Fox News' Media Division, is the new Publisher. Perhaps it was because yesterday, the 4 published Enough Is Enough: "The man in the White House is reckless and unmanageable, a danger to the Constitution, a threat to our democratic institutions." 8/4: Sessions threatens review of ability to subpoena journalists who "leak" information from the White House. (Washington Post; see below to take action) Older Updates.

Learn: Net Neutrality (the idea that Internet service providers should allow us all content regardless of the source, without favoring or blocking access and slowing particular sites--e.g., those which don't pay up), was upheld in June, 2016, due to public outcry. It is under great threat now. (Here is a brief history from savetheinternet.com.) Net neutrality is in trouble again, due to the new FCC head, Ajit Pai, who’s actually against it (and presumably for the big businesses who would profit from its roll-back): “The Republicans’ FCC majority would help them roll back pro-consumer policies that upset many phone and cable industry groups, including net neutrality rules that bar internet service providers from favoring some websites and apps over others.”—Arbel, Washington Post. Doing this prioritizes some journalists' voices over others. Pai has already begun to rescind 2016 net neutrality protections, claiming the protections take away our freedom! Activism and resistance and, therefore, democracy, require unrestricted access to the internet. Take action below!

Learn: Press Freedom. (or go directly to "Take Action," below) As the “Fourth Estate” (or unofficial fourth branch of government), freedom of the press is required to check the behavior and decisions of the President and Congress, to ensure they honor the rule of law and the basic principles of democracy as laid out in the U.S. Constitution (and Bill of Rights). Our founders recognized we must be able to speak out against, and to question, our own government if democracy is to survive. The press is given wide latitude to ask tough questions, investigate claims made by the government, and present as unbiased as possible view to citizens, so that we may evaluate how well the current government is doing its job. A governmental official’s job is to represent the will of the citizens—not their own opinions or wishes or attitudes or interests—including ensuring that officials are not personally benefiting from any preferential treatment given to nation states or individuals, which carries with it the threat of blackmail. Blackmail encourages public officials to act in accordance with the blackmailers’ wishes, not in accordance with the citizens’ will, which the officials have sworn to serve. Were the free press to be restricted by the government, we would quickly find ourselves without a democracy, as democracy cannot survive without the check placed upon it by investigative journalists—the watchful eyes and ears of the citizenry.

Unfortunately, top journalists began to warn of threats to freedom of the press under Trump last fall (Stelter, CNN, 11/23/16). In an interview with Bill O'Reilly on 2/5, Trump refused to censure Putin, instead comparing him with the US, despite his severe restrictions on and retaliations for free speech in Russia. Trump continues to laud Putin. Former Press Secretary Sean Spicer and current Press Secretary Sarah Sanders have intentionally lied about easily provable facts (e.g., the size of the inauguration vs. the size of the women’s march a day later), and Trump is consistently attacking any media outlet which presents a view of him that is different from the (all-perfect) one he sees when he looks in his distorted mirror. “In a troubling development, Trump's transition team recommended privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the entity that oversees distribution of federal money to public radio and television stations" (Bolton, Trump Team Prepares Dramatic Cuts, The Hill, 1/19/17). So far, this has not happened, but it is a genuine threat. The international press is responding as Trump threatens to put journalists in prison (e.g., Walters, The Guardian, 5/21/17). Attorney General Sessions makes this threat explicit in a press briefing, 8/4/17 (Zapotosky & Barrett, Washington Post). On October 11, Trump threatened NBC News over a story that cast him in an unflattering light, saying he supported removing their broadcast license. Thankfully, television news doesn't have a broadcast license he can remove (The Guardian). Trump's relentless attacks on journalism are immediately echoed on social media by an army of Russian and Ukranian bots and trolls (see dashboard.securingdemocracy.com for what they're causing to trend at the moment). Repitition drives memory. If we don't consciously work to become aware of the repeated lies told to us, we begin to believe them. See the Fake News page to learn how to identify fake news.

In a sign of how bad things have become, The Committee to Protect Journalists has a new section to protect Press Freedom in the U.S.

TAKE ACTION

(1) Watch for any attempt at (il)legal restriction of the internet and free press by this administration and contact your representatives immediately. If the government controls the press, we've lost the Fourth Estate--one of our most powerful checks on authoritarianism. Remember…members of Congress are MOST concerned about their own re-election (all House Reps and many Senators are up in 2018). If they believe people will vote based on their position on an issue, they will listen! So far, The Resistance has had success after success based upon pressure on Congress. DON'T GIVE UP OUT OF EXHAUSTION. Take a break, and then call. It really does take only a handful of phone calls on a given topic from a representative's own constituents to influence that member of Congress. Who are your representatives? General House of Representatives number in DC: 866-948-8977 General Senate number in DC: 866-985-2543 Don't know your Congressman's phone number? Call 202/224-3121, put in your zip. You’ll be transferred. Here's an easy way to call 5. Shy to call? Don’t be concerned; you’ll likely be sent to voicemail. Explain what you're concerned about, that you're keeping track of their actions, and that you vote. You can also use the resistance bot! Text "resist" to 50409 & it will find out who represents you in Congress, will ask for the message you want to send them, and will do it for you! To find out how to contact GOP legislators in other states, https://www.nationalpriorities.org/take-action/contact-your-representative/.

(2) Join the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international organization which (unbelievably) now has to work to protect the Fourth Estate in the United States.

(3) Call FCC head, Ajit Pai, 888-225-5322, and express your views about keeping the internet neutral and accessible for all. Then, contact GOP representatives and explain you are not in their district, but will be calling their voters during midterm campaigns and their next election.

(4) Media Matters for America current action items (bookmark or sign up for updates!). Browse freepress.net's general freedom of the press action items.

(5) Also fight internet restrictions with savetheinternet.com. Explore, support, take action.

(6) Petition against Trump’s FCC advisers: “Jeffrey Eisenach, Mark Jamison and Roslyn Layton are industry loyalists and Net Neutrality haters and should be nowhere near the FCC.”

(7) Handwrite the First Amendment and mail it to Donald Trump's office at: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500.

(8) Support genuine journalism by subscribing to genuine news outlets, including newspapers (see Fake vs. Real News: Take Action section for a list!). This is particularly important now. Be aware when you click on a fake news site, you bring them ad revenue. Genuine journalistic news sites are under overt attack by the Trump administration, as these particularly eviscerating articles demonstrate: Trump's war with the media isn't a war (wars need two sides) (Garber, The Atlantic, 9/27/17), With Trump's attack on the press, American democracy reaches a critical moment (Caryl, Washington Post, 6/2/17) The Trump Administration's war on the press (Media Matters, 2/17/17) With false claims, Trump attacks media on turnout and intelligence rift (Davis & Rosenberg, New York Times, 1/21/17). If they are to survive, they need to be funded, and we all rely upon them to inform and anchor us to reality. Imagine if we had NO check on “alternative facts,” as lies are now called by KellyAnne Conway, counselor to Trump.

Go to:

First Amendment: Fake News Vs. Real News

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