Notes on Press Freedom and the Special Election in Montana

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The folks defending Greg Gianforte for assaulting that reporter should remember that 79 journalists died on the job last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 18 of whom were murdered, often in broad daylight, and almost always without legal repercussions. We’ve already seen the deaths of ten journalists in seven countries so far this year, and that number is sure to increase.

We’ve had a mayor downstate openly boast about pointing a machine gun loaded with blanks at reporters last week, and one of Trump’s staff joked about him using a sword against the White House press corp–a ceremonial sword gifted from a country that has no freedom of the press whatsoever. There’s nothing funny about any of it, especially given his documented connections to a foreign government that has itself been implicated in the murders of several journalists in recent years.

Our president has referred to the media as “the enemy of the people”, mocked a handicapped journalist on the campaign trail, had reporters physically removed from his events, and openly suggested to his then-FBI director having others locked up for reporting on his own abuses of power, which is a real thing that has happened multiple times in this country over the years.

On local and state levels, countless journalists have been attacked, stalked, doxxed and threatened, including right here in my own hometown. Numerous journalists sit behind bars all over the world for doing their job, and several outlets have had to shut down because of attrition due to violence.

I don’t know much about Gianforte or his opponent, Rob Quist and I won’t pretend to have any special insight about the internal politics of their state, but this contest is now a national issue, with direct implications for the entire industry. If Gianforte wins, the voters of Montana will be on-record as having signed off on a dangerous dynamic that undermines our democracy and the people’s ability to get the information they need to make informed decisions about their lives–and they know it.

Personally, I’ve been slapped, punched, spit on, threatened, shot at with BB guns, had knives and guns pulled on me–and that’s just from exes, LOL. But seriously, I don’t begrudge any of the heat I’ve gotten, because I work a particularly ruthless and hyperbolic style that entails saying extremely controversial things about extremely dangerous people. If anything tragic ever happens to me, it will probably be at least somewhat my fault. But my concern is for the decent, impartial working journalists who walk the straight and narrow path and do their best to call it right down the middle–the kind of people who will still give those scumbags the benefit of the doubt, despite everything.

This escalating trend of violence and intimidation against journalists here and around the world needs to stop. Voters in Montana need to make a firm stand, today, right now. If they don’t, the consequences could be truly horrifying. And if you think I’m making mountains our of molehills, I’ve got two words for you: “Charlie Hebdo”…

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About Shelton Hull

I'm a writer/journalist with over 20 years experience covering all types of subject-matter, with a specialization in politics, music, food and dance. My work has been published in nearly 40 different magazines, newspapers, websites and zines, in addition to occasional forays into radio, TV and spoken-word. Former candidate for City Council District 14 in Jacksonville, FL (2011), and a proud member of Gator Nation.

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