Capital Gazette shooting highlights the dangers facing today’s journalists

USA Today by Caroline Simon

July 3, 2018

A shooting that killed five people at the Capital Gazette newspaper on June 28 was only the latest in a string of gun attacks that have captured the nation’s attention.

This time, the targets were different: not schoolchildren or moviegoers, but journalists.

It was the deadliest assault on journalists in the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed one freelance photographer and six broadcast engineers, and it underscores a growing fear that journalism is getting more dangerous.

While international reporting in conflict zones or authoritarian countries has always been risky, journalist deaths in the United States have been uncommon. But the Capital Gazette shooting catapulted the U.S. to the spot of third-most dangerous country for journalists, behind only Syria and Afghanistan, according to the non-profit Committee to Protect Journalists.

That rise has coincided with an increase in public attacks on the press, many stemming from President Donald Trump, who has painted the media as the “enemy of the people.” Trump frequently vilifies media outlets such as The New York Times and CNN and has tweeted insults at individual reporters, fueling a rise in wider animosity toward reporters.

According to an April report published by Reporters Without Borders, a global watchdog group defending free expression, “Democratically elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion … A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters as ‘enemies of the people,’ the term once used by Joseph Stalin.”

In the case of the Capital Gazette, the shooter had a longstanding feud with the newspaper that predated the Trump administration. Courtney Radsch, the advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, warned against associating the two.

“We have to be careful about linking this (the shooting) to the environment and the broader shift in dangerous rhetoric coming from high political office,” she said.

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