Joyce L. Arnold: Liberal, lesbian, Independent, equality activist, writer.
‘Crackdown’ was the word of the year in 2011. Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous. The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom.
The above is a quote from “Crackdown on Media,” the “2011-2012 Press Freedom Index” released on Thursday by Reporters Without Borders. One of the things it points out is what Occupiers, and those following the OWS movement, including some reporting on it, have been saying for the last three months or so: police departments have been instructed to “crackdown” on media, mainstream and new, when covering the Occupy stories. It also points out that, like too few choices in political parties, there are, if not too few, then at least questions to be asked about the Fourth Estate.
From a pdf of the report:
The worldwide wave of protests in 2011 also swept through the New World. It dragged the United States (47th) and Chile (80th) down the index, costing them 27 and 47 places respectively. The crackdown on protest movements and the accompanying excesses took their toll on journalists. In the space of two months in the United States, more than 25 were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation.
This isn’t new information. But if you haven’t heard much, or anything, about it, it’s not a surprise. From a piece at HuffPo:
The treatment of journalists by police was well documented throughout 2011. Reporters were beaten, arrested and prevented from covering police action against Occupy protesters. Tensions heightened so much that the New York Police Department had to meet with journalists and remind its officers not to mistreat them.
At the same time journalists experienced everything from being blocked by police to being beaten and arrested, others in the media ignored or downplayed it, as they did the Occupy movement in general. Taken together, both say something rather significant about “freedom of the press.”
Some examples, the first from a mid-December piece at TruthOut:
Even after a solid two weeks of this Occupation, corporate media largely blacked it out. What coverage there was depicted protesters as drug-abusing hippies (the Fox News spin—Hannity, 10/10/11), or, in the ‘liberal’ version, as directionless naifs with no message (New York Times, 9/23/11).
Also see: Getting beyond the primary means for con-trol: Mass media propaganda at Intrepid Report.
NYPD Continues to Block Journalists from Covering Occupy Protests at Media Bistro.
Via TruthOut, in “Low Friends in High Places: Triad of Business, Cops and Politicians Attack Occupy,”
Playing supporting roles was a noisy media chorus repeatedly echoing pretexts of various municipal health, park and police regulations that were allegedly being violated.
A media related, January 18 story seems worth mentioning, just for a bit more context. From Public Policy Polling, the “3rd Annual TV News Trust Poll”:
… finds that Fox News tops the list for both the source Americans trust the most and the one they trust the least.
Obviously some trust it, some don’t, but Fox appears at the top of the list for both groups. I’m not sure that really tells us anything new, but it’s one indication of the 2012 condition of the Fourth Estate.
As does the fact that some members of the press who tried to cover OWS were blocked, arrested, and beaten, as the drop in ranking in the Press Freedom Index made clear. Other members of the press spin the whole OWS movement, basically, in the way governments – city and beyond – and corporate heads want them to do. It all leads me to wonder about the choices we have regarding the Fourth Estate. The Two Corporate Parties provide too few political choices, but the choices provided by much of the media, mainstream in particular, are equally questionable. And fairly often, it seems, complicit.
( Photo via ThinkProgress )