Florida reporter fired after calling news release on DeSantis event ‘propaganda’. - Washington Post
"The news release said DeSantis, a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate, had hosted a roundtable. Ben Montgomery, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, replied to the email three minutes after getting it. “This is propaganda, not a press release,” he wrote to the Department of Education press office. Montgomery said the news release had “no substance,” adding that he “read the whole thing and it was just a series of quotes about how bad DEI was.” Axios editor in chief Sara Kehaulani Goo confirmed Montgomery is no longer employed by Axios."
How do politicians and billionaires silence journalists they don't like? Why do media outlets buckle? What does a free press mean for democracy? How do fascists bully the press to control the masses?
"Democracy Dies in Darkness" is the Washington Post slogan. Meet some of the people turning out the lights and smashing the bulbs.
Named a Pulitzer finalist for his reporting that uncovered abuse at a Florida reform school for boys, Montgomery was hired by Axios in late 2020 and sent his first newsletter in January 2021 as part of the outlet’s growing presence in local journalism. He said the staff was often assured in his early days at the company that “we’re not going to let the trolls run the newsroom,” and that he was therefore “unafraid” to send the email to the press office. - WaPo
Silencing the press
At the governor’s urging, Florida’s Republican-dominated Legislature is pushing to weaken state laws that have long protected journalists against defamation suits and frivolous lawsuits... DeSantis has a combative relationship with many media outlets, refusing to conduct interviews with platforms except Fox News and building a communications team that openly brags that its role is to be antagonistic to members of the press. - Politico
Rep. Alex Andrade is the Florida Republican sponsoring the bill. His proposal incorporates many of the elements DeSantis called for during the roundtable, including:
— allowing plaintiffs who sue media outlets for defamation to collect attorneys fees
— adding a provision to state law specifying that comments made by anonymous sources are presumed false for the purposes of defamation lawsuits
— lowering the legal threshold for a “public figure” to successfully sue for defamation
— repealing the “journalist’s privilege” section of state law, which protects journalists from being compelled to do things like reveal the identity of sources in court, for defamation lawsuits.
Why freedom of the press matters
Truth, accountability, and informed voting. A healthy democracy needs a free press to uncover and explain the facts. A free press is a watchdog on power. Informed voting is why freedom of the press is so important. Democracies only thrive when voters are as informed as possible. Being informed ensures people understand the issues at hand and what policies and politicians best represent them. The press is the body that informs by analyzing information, encouraging discussion, and fact-checking. - Human Rights Careers
TakeAway: Journalists are the front line of democracy. Watch for fascists and billionaires trying to silence journalists and destroy the free press that it vital for democracy.
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