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First Amendment

August 24, 2018
By Darren Fraser , Emmetsburg News

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

President Donald Trump has declared war against the media save Fox News and any other outlet that aligns with his thinking. The First Amendment guarantees the president the right to issue his Twitter fatwas. The First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to worship and the freedom to speak their minds without fear of censure. The First Amendment guarantees the press the right to print what it wants without fear of the government restricting or censoring what it prints.

These freedoms come with responsibility. For a lark, we can yell "FIRE" in a crowded movie; no one denies us this right. But we will suffer the repercussions. A newspaper has the right to print a salacious story about a celebrity; if the story proves unfounded, the newspaper can be sued for libel. The same goes for slander.

President Trump had barely settled into the Oval Office when he began the drumbeat about fake news. The president typically uses his Twitter account to make these proclamations. CNN, New York Times, Washington Post and NBC News are the usual recipients of the president's ire. This unfettered vitriol is protected under the First Amendment. But what the president fails to understand are the repercussions of his rants.

There are studies that prove people accept as fact that which becomes familiar to them. Today's technology allows the repetition of statements, accusations and declarations to go unabated for perpetuity. With the exception of the Mueller investigation, which he calls a witch hunt, the president does not elaborate on his fake news proclamations. Succinct, acerbic and antagonistic the president's tweets serve only to foment discord.

During a recent presidential rally, the audience turned on CNN reporter Jim Acosta. Their expletives nearly drowned out Acosta's audio. The president was aware of the situation; he did nothing to stop it. When asked about the incident, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration supports a free press. She then ticked off examples where the press's reporting caused harm to political figures, threatened the lives of U.S. military personnel and compromised national security. These accounts were either untrue or exaggerated.

The First Amendment will endure long after Donald Trump is relegated to a footnote in history. What concerns those of us who work in print media is how some of the president's minions have heeded his reckless clarion. A few Congressmembers have gone on record as saying they believe the president has the right to shut down media outlets he believes spread fake news. Just as disconcerting is how Sanders -- and before her, Sean Spicer -- conducts White House press briefings. Sanders makes no illusions about her antagonistic relationship with the press corp. What has escaped Sanders's is the fact she is supposed to relay information to the media. Her job is not to shape policy.

The Emmetsburg Reporter and Democrat report the news that happens in Emmetsburg and Palo Alto County. We do, on occasion, wade into national issues when we feel these issues impact our readers. We reserve our opinions for our op-ed page. We are committed to unbiased reporting and to the First Amendment.



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