In honor of World Press Freedom Day, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres addressed a conference at UN headquarters in New York:
“All our freedom depends on press freedom,” he said in a video message, calling it the “foundation of democracy and justice” and the “lifeblood of human rights.”
I would say that the ability of all citizens to speak their minds freely–not just journalists–is the “foundation of democracy and justice.” When it comes to free speech, journalists are not special.
“But in every corner of the world, freedom of the press is under attack,” Guterres added, addressing a conference held at UN headquarters in New York.
There are some corners of the world–China and Russia, among others–where there never, or rarely, has been a free press. This is a bad thing. Guterres went on to decry the murders of journalists in Iran and the apparently unfounded arrest of an American journalist in Russia. Good for him. But am I paranoid to suspect that these outrages are not really top of mind when Western liberals talk about journalists being under attack?
“Truth is threatened by disinformation and hate speech, seeking to blur the lines between fact and fiction, between science and conspiracy,” Guterres said.
His complaint here is about too much free speech, not too little. He is right, of course, that in recent years, truth has been undermined by massive disinformation campaigns. The Russia collusion hoax, propagated by the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the FBI, the CIA and others, is first on the disinformation list. The false claim that documentary evidence of Joe Biden’s corruption was Russian disinformation is also on the list. As is the campaign of disinformation that surrounded the origins of the covid virus and the purported benefits of shutdowns of businesses, churches and schools. And one day before long, climate hysteria will be recognized as the biggest disinformation campaign of the last century.
But the journalists who promoted these massively destructive instances of disinformation didn’t have to worry about being shot or arrested. They were given Pulitzer prizes. What liberals like Guterres don’t like is that they are now being exposed and widely criticized.
Others spoke at the conference, like A.G. Sulzburger:
New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger said it was not only direct repression that threatens journalists and freedom of information.
“The internet also unleashed the avalanche of misinformation, propaganda, punditry and clickbait that now overwhelms our information ecosystem… accelerating the decline in societal trust,” he said.
Note the bait and switch! Sulzburger isn’t actually concerned about “direct repression” of journalists. Rather, he is incensed that professional journalists are being held accountable–some of the time–by competitors who expose their efforts to mislead. American liberals want to shut down these competitors. That is the real threat to free speech in the U.S., and the West generally.
There is, to be sure, a decline in trust in institutions like the New York Times. But that decline in trust is richly deserved, and is salutary. Anyone who trusts the Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and many other professional journalism outlets is a fool. And the attempt to burnish the reputations of American journalists by associating them with the real journalists who are being murdered in Iran will fail.