Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists honored Christiane Amanpour with the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for her extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom. Amanpour is CNN’s chief international correspondent and anchor of the network’s award-winning global affairs program “Amanpour.” She is a senior adviser to CPJ, and is on the board of the International Women’s Media Foundation. In 2015, she was named UNESCO’s goodwill ambassador for freedom of expression and journalist safety.
In accepting the award, the University of Rhode Island graduate, boldly tackled the issue of press freedom in the age of Trump.
I never in a million years thought I would be up here on stage appealing for the freedom and safety of American journalists at home. . . . . A great America requires a great and free and safe press.
She challenged U.S. journalists to
Recommit to robust fact-based reporting without fear or favor–on the issues.
She was blunt in her assessment of the media’s coverage of the Presidential race:
I was shocked by the exceptionally high bar put before one candidate and the exceptionally low bar put before the other candidate.
It appeared much of the media got itself into knots trying to differentiate between balance, objectivity, neutrality, and crucially, truth.
We cannot continue the old paradigm–let’s say like over global warming, where 99.9 percent of the empirical scientific evidence is given equal play with the tiny minority of deniers.
I learned long ago, covering the ethnic cleansing and genocide in Bosnia, never to equate victim with aggressor, never to create a false moral or factual equivalence, because then you are an accomplice to the most unspeakable crimes and consequences.
I believe in being truthful, not neutral. And I believe we must stop banalizing the truth.
And we have to be prepared to fight especially hard for the truth in a world where the Oxford English Dictionary just announced its word of 2016: post-truth.
Amanpour expressed her shock over Trump’s victory:
So yes, like so many around the world, I was shocked–very few ever imagined that so many Americans conducting their sacred duty in the sanctity of the voting booth, with their secret ballot, would be angry enough to ignore the wholesale vulgarity of language, the sexual predatory behavior, the deep misogyny, the bigoted and insulting views.
Referring to the Nazi salutes at the National Policy Institute’s celebration of Trump’s victory, Amanpour stressed:
Why aren’t there more stories about the dangerous rise of the far right here and in Europe?
Since when did anti-Semitism stop being a litmus test in this country?
We must fights against normalization of the unacceptable.
A week before the heated Brexit referendum in the U.K., the gorgeous, young, optimistic, idealistic, compassionate MP Jo Cox, a remainer, was shot and stabbed to death by a maniac yelling “Britain first.” She was particularly sensitive to the plight of Syrian war refugees.
At his trial, the court was told the accused had researched information on the SS and the KKK.
Just a few weeks ago, her husband, Brendan, now raising their two tiny toddlers, expanded for me on an op-ed he’d written:
“Political leaders and people generally must embrace the responsibility to speak out against bigotry. Unless the center holds against the insidious creep of extremism, history shows how quickly hatred is normalized. What begins with biting your tongue for political expediency, or out of social awkwardness, soon becomes complicity with something far worse. Before you know it, it’s already too late.”
In concluding, Amanpour stressed:
We, the media, can either contribute to a more functional system or to deepening the political dysfunction.
. . . Journalism itself has become weaponized. We have to stop it.
We all have a huge amount of work to do, investigating wrongdoing, holding power accountable, enabling decent government, defending basic rights, actually covering the world–Russia, Syria, North Korean nukes.
. . . As a profession, let’s fight for what is right.
Let’s fight for our values.
Bad things do happen when good people do nothing.