The government’s authoritarian war on journalism: How a flaccid press enabled this Orwellian disgrace

The government’s authoritarian war on journalism: How a flaccid press enabled this Orwellian disgrace

Officials launch an all-out assault on free press — with nary an objection from the Fourth Estate’s guardians.

Many readers will know, or know of, the Committee to Protect Journalists. It has been around since the early 1980s and does a lot of honorable work. This is what we all know about the C.P.J. But it is not all we need to know. The C.P.J. also exhibits the usual American biases when the big ideological chips are down on the table. This must be said plainly.

Few people in or outside the craft seem to think much about this. But it is not a small problem. It is a symptom of a very big problem that belongs to everybody. What happens when reporters, editors and their news organizations defer at every turn to the preferences of power? Short answer: Rot accumulates. Flaccid work becomes the norm. A slow, daily accretion of bad judgments, or refusals to judge independently, produces a weak institution that no longer understands its responsibilities, to say nothing of fulfilling them.

The C.P.J. reports frequently on difficult media conditions in Venezuela, for instance, but takes no cognizance of a long-running C.I.A. subversion campaign that greatly complicates the scene. This is indefensible. There is no judging any revolution without reference to the counterrevolution. No exceptions, in journalism or anywhere else.

A C.P.J. report on Ukraine a year ago was, sorry to say, patently over the top. It was based on one researcher’s one trip to Kiev—nowhere else—and had nothing whatever to say about press problems, which are severe, under the U.S.-backed Poroshenko government. It focused wholly on the rebelling eastern regions and Crimea even as it quoted not a single source representing either. Not a peep, of course, about the open secret of the Ukraine crisis—McCarthyesque American coverage that has propagandized nearly an entire nation into ignorance and prejudice.

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