"I never in a million years thought I would be up here on stage appealing for the freedom and safety of American journalists at home."
That's how Christiane Amanpour began her acceptance speech
for the International Press Freedom Award given to her by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Amanpour is one of those strong, steady, fearless journalistic voices. She's a respected international correspondent who has spent time the world's hot spots. She understands what attacks on the press look like. She hosts persecuted journalists on her program. She knows whereof she speaks.
Her entire speech talks about freedom of the press around the world, but she keeps returning to her fears, which she hopes won't turn into reality, of a cowed and cooperative media in this country. Here are a few excerpts.
I was chilled when [Trump's] first tweet after the election was about "professional protesters incited by the media." He walked back the part about the protesters but not the part about the media. We are not there but, postcard from the world: this is how it goes with authoritarians like Sisi, Erdoğan, Putin, the Ayatollahs, Duterte, et al.
As all the international journalists we honor in this room tonight and every year know only too well:
First the media is accused of inciting, then sympathizing, then associating—until they suddenly find themselves accused of being full-fledged terrorists and subversives. Then they end up in handcuffs, in cages, in kangaroo courts, in prison—and then who knows?
. . .
A great America requires a great and free and safe press. So this above all is an appeal to protect journalism itself. Recommit to robust fact-based reporting without fear or favor—on the issues. Don't stand for being labelled crooked or lying or failing. Do stand up together—for divided we will all fall.
. . .
I learned long ago, covering the ethnic cleansing and genocide in Bosnia, never to equate victim with aggressor, never to create a false moral or factual equivalence, because then you are an accomplice to the most unspeakable crimes and consequences.
I believe in being truthful, not neutral. And I believe we must stop banalizing the truth. And we have to be prepared to fight especially hard for the truth in a world where the Oxford English Dictionary just announced its word of 2016: post-truth.
We have to accept that we've had our lunch handed to us by the very same social media that we've so slavishly been devoted to. The winning candidate did a savvy end run around us and used it to go straight to the people. Combined with the most incredible development ever—the tsunami of fake news sites—aka lies—that somehow people could not, would not, recognize, fact check, or disregard.
. . .
I feel that we face an existential crisis, a threat to the very relevance and usefulness of our profession.
Now, more than ever, we need to commit to real reporting across a real nation, a real world in which journalism and democracy are in mortal peril, including by foreign powers like Russia paying to churn out and place false news, and hacking into democratic systems here and allegedly in upcoming crucial German and French elections too.
Writers across the country are speaking eloquently and passionately about the concerns Amanpour talks about. We ignore them at our peril.
A "Which-ACLU-America-Hater-Said-This?" Bonus Quiz
: Who said he would only outlaw flag-burning "if I were king," and went on to say that the First Amendment protects "speech critical of the government. That's the main type of speech tyrants would seek to suppress." Nope, not Noam Chomsky. Not the ACLU. Not some radical First Amendment rights lawyer. It was late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
, who signed onto a court opinion in 1989 that flag burning is constitutionally protected. He made the statement during an interview on CNN decades after the opinion was written.