Over the past several months, we’ve seen the Trump administration sink further into authoritarianism. We’ve watched the president prioritize his own ego and reputation over the health and safety of the nation, spreading disinformation that has severely undermined the medical community’s efforts to fight the coronavirus, which has killed over 110,000 people in the United States and sickened countless others, with no end in sight.
We’ve seen him order law enforcement to use brutal force to clear peaceful protesters and the press out of Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., so that he could pose for a photo-op in front of a church.
We’ve seen him throw a temper tantrum of executive-order proportions over Twitter flagging one of his tweets as false (it was) and one for glorifying violence (he threatened to shoot protesters).
We’ve seen him call the press the enemy of the people, again and again, giving cover to widespread law-enforcement attacks on journalists who are trying to cover the protests, and unleashing his unofficial army of white-supremacist Twitter followers to harass members of the press.
That’s a recipe for tyranny, and Donald Trump knows just how to bake it.
This is why we fight for a free press.
But there’s something we need to be clear about: A truly free press supports freedom — not just freedom from government control over one’s speech, but freedom from oppression for all people.
That freedom has not existed on this soil since the colonists arrived in the 1600s. They initiated a heinous tradition of using the media to demonize and dehumanize people of color to normalize and legitimize atrocities against them. That practice has endured throughout our nation’s history and exists to this day.
We imagine a press that frees people. We imagine a press that liberates people of color from oppression, that eradicates white supremacy, that puts power in the hands of the people. We imagine a press that tells the truth and helps people make sense of our history and current events. That’s what a truly free press looks like, and there’s space in that vision for all of us.
But that dream is under attack — not just from the president but from the systems of oppression our media system was built on.
We’re seeing news stories repeat police talking points with no critical analysis and failing to ask the hard questions about the pandemic so people have the information they need to stay safe.
We’re seeing corporate radio profit from hate. We’re seeing local-TV news — still the most popular source of news — place more value on property than human life.
We’re seeing the New York Times solicit opinion pieces that advocate for overwhelming military force against U.S. protesters.
We’re seeing Spanish-language broadcast chains like Telemundo and Univision spread anti-Black racism.
We’re seeing firsthand how media consolidation, shrinking newsrooms, and the lack of Black ownership and newsroom representation make much of the media incapable of reporting on the moment.
We’re seeing white-supremacist movements exploit corporate media’s thirst for the almighty buck above all else to disseminate bigotry, normalize violence against people of color, and recruit for and finance their efforts.
That’s why we fight for a free press.
That’s why we organize for the type of journalism that exposes white supremacy and centers community needs.
That’s why we fight media consolidation, support independent voices and are reimagining a public media that can truly serve the people with the type of news and information we so desperately need.
That’s why we fight for universal access to the internet, so that all people, rich and poor, urban and rural, Black and white, can access information and have a voice on the internet.
That’s why we fight for Net Neutrality, so that people can tell their own stories without interference. So communities can connect, organize and mobilize to create positive social change and advance racial justice.
That’s why we call on Big Tech companies to #ChangeTheTerms and disrupt hate and disinformation while preserving free expression.
That’s why we fight for privacy protections and against government surveillance, which has disproportionately targeted Black people and activists, because we shouldn’t have to trade our privacy for our right to learn and share information online.
As people take to the streets demanding justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and so many others, we understand that it’s time to completely divest from a system of media and technology that propagates racism and abuse.
We are committed to the ongoing work of supporting Black dignity while undoing white supremacy within our organization and in the world. We stand with the Movement for Black Lives — and are working together to transform journalism to meet this moment.
Free Press is deepening our fight for a media system that tells the truth. A just media. A media we’ve never had, but one we can see in our dreams and commit our hands to collectively building.