In light of the murder of Washington Post opinion writer Jamal Khashoggi, I remember how fortunate I am to be living in a country that has freedom of the press in its constitution.
The United States has had its fair share of problems when it comes to the government, the people and the press. Four months ago a small newspaper in Maryland saw their newsroom rain bullets and extinguish the voices of those who advocate for the First Amendment. President Donald Trump constantly accuses the press and the people who search for the truth “the enemy of the people.”
Some people would probably not classify me as a reporter and shouldn’t worry about my safety. My current experience, after all, comes from small stories that bloom in a college newsroom. But even with that, I consider myself a journalist. One who is grateful and terrified.
The dean of the journalism school here at FIU once said to me in an interview, “[It’s important] for journalism students to understand the responsibilities that come with the First Amendment.”
It’s stuck with me. But even with the vitriol the government has thrown at me and my colleagues, we are safe from being prosecuted by our own government for our criticism. There are reporters all over the world who do the same job that we do. However, they fight for the truth and inform the public knowing the risks. These people, they are heroes.
In Mexico, more than 100 journalists have been murdered or kidnapped since 2000. In Russia, journalists sometimes go missing and come back dead. The Egyptian government calls journalists “forces of evil.” Yet new people come forth and continue reporting and searching for the truth.
Now, we have another fallen hero, one who wanted free expression in the Arab world. In his most recent and final publication for the Washington Post Khashoggi explained that journalists in these Arab countries face consequences for their words, despite the hope that the Internet would save them.
In his final piece, he reminds the world that nothing is being done about it: “These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community. Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence.”
I do not know what I can do to help, or what the U.S. government should do. I feel sad yet inspired.
There is a small voice in my head that whispers to me when I think about the possible dangers I could face in the field. My fear, as legitimate as it may be to me, is nothing. For I face no consequences from the government when in search for the truth, I am (hopefully) protected by a statement that founded this nation. Khashoggi’s death reminds me of both the privilege and duty I hold as a reporter: To hold the government accountable, to tell the stories of the people and to expose the truth and only the truth.
Without this, we risk allowing our nation to fall into a hole of lies, corruption, destruction and death.