Freedom of the press is vital to a transparent government



White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks in the press briefing room of the White House during the daily briefing on Feb 14. in Washington, D.C.

By Shankari Sureshbabu, Columnist

Freedom of the press is a pillar of American rights, but last week that took a blow when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied access to multiple news outlets from an off-camera briefing, including the New York Times, CNN, BBC and POLITICO

Journalists and readers alike were outraged about the ethical implications of this decision given that the remaining outlets were traditionally conservative and supportive of Trump.

The relationship between the media and the administration has already been wearing thin as President Donald Trump has called journalists “the enemy of the people,” and repeatedly spread information that has been proven factually incorrect.

Just last week, Trump confused many by referring to a fake event that happened in Sweden. This instance, and many more like it, have made the general public wary about the information the White House puts out. How do we know it’s legitimate?

Many people turn to long-trusted news sources such as The New York Times or BBC to relay the truth and correct the president when he deviates from it. This usually garners the label “fake news” from the government itself, but we deserve to have news outlets cover a variety of perspectives, not only those that align with the views of the current president.  

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Cherry-picking media outlets to be privy to important information is a child’s way of dealing with public backlash.

As Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, said, “Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest.”

This exclusion, although it has only happened once thus far, is a worrying sign about the unethical lengths the administration will go to to try and protect their reputation in the public eye. It makes the public’s already shaky faith in the information fed from the White House even weaker and a better relationship with the media seem impossible.

However, it’s important to mention that this is not an event exclusive to the Trump administration. As Fox News anchor Bret Baier tweeted, when the Obama administration attempted to exclude Fox News, The New York Times and CNN stood in solidarity with them. The lack of ethics and tact taken in dealing with this situation seems unjustifiable.

The American public, and the world, relies on credible news sources to deliver the truth about what is going on in the nation. This includes news covering from different perspectives and political leanings.

If outlets that are long-held as largely reliable and accurate are purposely forced out of the loop so that the only outlets that champion Trump’s policies are privy to information, that shows a fundamental lack of maturity from the administration.

Not only is it weak, it is un-American, and I for one am shocked that this is even a mistake that was allowed to be made.

For a country that brags about the freedom it grants its journalists and the transparency of its government, this exclusion seems to be furthering the most recent argument that we’re all talk. The general public should be extremely skeptical about the actions and intentions of the government as well as any information it puts out.
As this political discrimination continues, as I’m sure it will, although maybe not in such blatant bans, it might do well to take any news received with a generous heap of salt.

Shankari is a sophomore in LAS.

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