Editorial: The dangers of speaking the truth

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Chinese citizen journalist Chen Qiushi knew his government was after him.

“In front of me is the (corona)virus, and behind me is the legal and administrative power in China,” Qiushi said in a home video. 

Less than a month later, he would be declared missing by his family and friends.

As Americans under the First Amendment, we naturally think it would be irrational to be a journalist afraid of our government. We may feel belittled everyday by our president as he refers to us as “fake news,” but we don’t need to wake up and fear for our lives. 

Chinese journalists do not have this luxury.  In order to practice journalism in China, they must attain a certification by the Chinese government. But citizen journalists work for the people, investigating and presenting the news that the government is so harshly censoring.

Qiushi told his family days prior to his disappearance that he was concerned for his life, according to an article by The Washington Post.  He gave trusted friends the passwords to his accounts to prepare for what he felt like was an inevitable fate.  

According to the article, when Qiushi’s family questioned the government about his disappearance, they were told he had been quarantined for medical reasons. A friend of Qiushi said he saw him one day prior to his disappearance, and he was in perfect health. 

Qiushi’s disappearance is not the only example of a journalist punished for making noise in the community. 

Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey made headlines for almost a year. U.S. citizens were outraged, pushing for Saudi officials to admit any responsibility. President Donald Trump let this slide and looked the other way. Finally, the Saudi Arabian government admitted that Khashoggi had been murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

This was a turning point in our discussion of free press. Khashoggi was a journalist working for an America-based newspaper, a Saudi Arabian dissident, and ultimately, a dead man for his vocalization against the Saudi government. 

While Qiushi was aware of his possible fate, he said he was not afraid of dying.

“As long as I’m alive, I’ll speak what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard,” he said. “Why should I be afraid of you, Communist Party?”

No person should ever have to live in fear of speaking the truth. 

The First Amendment is an important constitutional right that many Americans take for granted. We wake up every day and can trust that the news we read is not a fabrication or propaganda from our government.   

But it goes past being able to enjoy reading accurate news. People are being killed across the world over our very right to publish the truth about our society.   

While we bask in our freedom from the safety of the United States, it’s important we remember that many across the world like Qiushi and Khashoggi are not as lucky as we are to be able to speak freely. 

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1 Comment

  1. Amy Charles ‘89 on

    You’ve got to be kidding me. Do you guys not read and listen to news? Matt Veto, where are you, and how exactly are you failing these kids that they can come out with this piece right now?

    A day or so before this piece was published, a career military guy was escorted off White House grounds, fired for having testified in front of Congress about crimes occurring within the White House. He’s had death threats made against him and his family. His brother, who didn’t testify but I suppose was presumed loyal to his brother and thus dangerous to Trump, was also fired and escorted out. One act of speech, two careers shot, one family endangered. This after a months-long campaign to publicly reveal the name of the whistleblower who turned in Trump for trying to extort the Ukrainian president. Why? So that a mob would do the work of hounding, threatening, or maybe killing the person.

    If you watch the beginning of Citizenfour, which as journalism students you ought to have done, you will hear about the campaign of executive-branch harassment against the filmmaker, who no longer finds it safe to make films inside the US. You can also see what happened to Glenn Greenwald’s partner as he tried to come through customs, how he was harassed and victimized by TSA. He’s not even a journalist. He’s just Greenwald’s partner.

    What you guys have written up there is a load of sententious nonsense. This is happening here and now, and you need to be awake to it. Pick it up and teach your student journalists, Matt Veto. Or go back to the Q-Cs and covering farm-team sports, or whatever.

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