Now more important than ever: freedom of inquiry and freedom of the press

What we have seen in the U.S. since the new administration took over in January is mind-boggling. It feels like the entire world is trapped in a wicked candid camera show, but nobody knows how to pull the plug.

Extremely worrisome is the administration’s, and in particular President Trump’s, hatred against the press. Unsurprisingly this hatred is directed towards media houses that have been critical towards Trump or have voiced concerns about proposed actions of the new administration.

The most recent incident is unbelievable: The White House blocked several major news outlets from covering its daily press briefing without any explanation. Barred media houses included CNN, BBC, The New York Times, LA Times, New York Daily News, BuzzFeed, The Hill, and the Daily Mail.

The New York Times said in a statement that “nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties”.

This is a very dangerous path for the White House to take. It’s similarly dangerous to President Trump’s constant habit of calling certain media houses as "fake news organizations". The longer an authority keeps on touting a message, the more likely it is that somebody will actually believe it.

Bad regimes always seem to have bad relations with the press. They do everything they can to first undermine and later take control of the press. That happened in Germany too during the 1930's. First, critical members of the press were mocked and referred to as members of the "Lügenpresse apparatus". Later, as we all know, all German media was forced to serve the totalitarian propaganda machinery.

Even today there are many countries where freedom of inquiry and freedom of the press are nonexistent. Places where bloggers and journalists are flogged or beheaded if they write about the "wrong issues", i.e. criticise the regime. These countries should be scary reminders for the rest of us how bad things can get.

Among the most important rights we have in the western world are the freedom of inquiry and freedom of the press. They must be defended always and at all cost. They are crucial components of civilized societies and important mechanisms for keeping the political system and in particular the executive branch in check. 

Every one of us must stand up and speak out (or tweet, or blog, or make a call to a representative in congress/parliament) when these essential rights are under threat. None of us can afford to turn a blind eye to what's going on.