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1-18-17

‘FIRST AMENDMENT
UNDER FIRE’
BOUNDARIES TO FREE SPEECH CONTINUE
TO BE TESTED

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark editor

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution safeguards freedom of speech and of the press, but boundaries to free speech continue to be tested.

Steve Youngblood, a director of the Center for Global Peace Journalism and associate professor of communication arts at Park University, says there is a growing number of journalists and journalism organizations that are concerned about free press issues and impending threats to free speech around the world.

Youngblood discussed the challenges of the First Amendment and how it impacts a free press on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at the National Archives at Kansas City located at 400 W. Pershing Road.

Looking at the criteria for what constitutes a free press, Youngblood said there is a real concern around the world. From the safety of journalists to the financial underpinnings of journalism, a free press is not absolute around the world.

Even in the United States, legal challenges against free speech are battled out in the U.S. Supreme Court. Ultimately, nine supreme court justices make the final decision. But even our highest court has remained incomplete for nearly a year.

“There is certainly a great deal of concern in the journalism community about the incoming Trump administration,” said Youngblood.

The denying of press credentials to media outlets, the threats to libel laws, and insults against the press are among the many concerns Youngblood plans to address in a conversation on “First Amendment Under Fire: Global Challenges to Press Freedom.”

Youngblood pointed out just this week there is discussion about removing the press from the West Wing of the White House. This was viewed by the press as another way the Trump administration is actively trying to reduce the legitimacy of the media and vilify the press.

But Trump isn't the only potential threat to a free press. Youngblood says the behavior and credibility of the press poses a threat to itself.

“Because the confidence and reliability of the press is at an all-time low, this lack of faith in the press makes restrictions against the press be more palpable,” he said.

Additionally, the digital world now plays a major part in disseminating news. Youngblood said although this digital connection greatly expanded access to information, it also increased the spread of propaganda and misinformation.

For the purpose of guiding readers to the facts and away from speculations and just plain false news, he says the professional news media is more important than ever.

Youngblood will discuss how peace journalism can help meet these challenges head-on.

“I have been advocating peace journalism for years,” says Youngblood. “The idea that journalism can be better, it could be more responsible, it can be less sensational and less conflagratory.”

Through his role as the director of the CGPJ, Youngblood has encouraged journalists around the world to engage in responsible reporting. In December, he launched a podcast of peace journalism perspectives with an edition about rhetoric in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

Youngblood is a two-time J. William Fulbright Scholar and has traveled to 40 countries around the world.