Our Statement Racial Injustice, a Free Press and Targeting Journalists
The moments that are hardest to bear witness to are also the moments that none of us can afford to look away from.
As workers, as journalists, and as members of The NewsGuild of New York, we have witnessed shameful attacks on the civil rights and liberties of the people of this country, including brazen violations of the First Amendment. From the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and other Black people to the brutal attacks against those demanding justice, we are horrified and saddened by these hateful actions. These are not isolated tragedies and random violent acts; they are the result of centuries of anti-Black racism that shapes our nation’s history.
The stakes are too high, the issues too fundamental, for us as a union to remain silent. Not speaking out about the human rights violations perpetrated during these protests, and their context in American history, would be an abdication of our responsibilities to each other as colleagues, as citizens, and as fellow human beings. That includes the deliberate police assaults on and arrests of journalists that have been widely documented — and our concern about those incidents extends to all protesters, many of whom are doing their own journalistic work of recording and questioning authority. A free press requires us to be vigilant and take a clear stand against the abuse of power. The use of violence to silence the necessary work of questioning those who maintain and enforce the status quo is a direct attack on our democracy.
Racial injustice permeates our society and, by extension, our workplaces and our labor movement. The members of our union can't singularly solve the lethal problem of racial injustice, but we can collectively dismantle how it shapes our profession. That starts with pushing for more diverse and more inclusive newsrooms, holding editorial leadership accountable, and being mindful of the ways in which the media’s coverage of these protests, like all news, has enormous power to inform the public’s understanding.
Every media organization is accountable for the words and images they distribute. Every media organization can commit to reporting accurate news and reject the publication of propaganda, including refusing to run staged photos created under the duress of tear gas and rubber bullets. Every media organization has the responsibility to critically examine and address the embedded racism and white supremacy in hiring, editorial and corporate policies.
Every individual, every media worker, every journalist, must have protected free speech and the ability to wield it against authority in pursuit of truth. We won’t stop fighting until we all do.
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