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World Press Freedom Day: Little to Celebrate in the Heart of Dixie (Opinion)

 

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Sunday was World Press Freedom Day, a time to “celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on [its] independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.” Originated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Unfortunately, the press has nothing to cheer about in Alabama. 

Not only has the State Senate tried to limit access to the State House (Which 19 Republicans stopped), but Speaker Mike Hubbard has worked diligently to undermine the press, threaten advertisers, ruin reporters reputations and destroy their livelihood, all the while coordinating a cabal of radio and online media to simultaneous plant lies and innuendo about other media and his opponents. He has viciously attacked this publication directly and through surrogates. He has threatened our advertisers in an effort to stop honest reporting on his dishonest activities. From lobbyists to university board members, we have reports of how Hubbard has worked to undermine this publication.

Richard Nixon used the same tactic, and his legacy lives on with Hubbard and other members of the Alabama Republican Party.

One has to wonder if Gov. Robert Bentley or Attorney General Luther Strange think it is right, ethical or even moral for Hubbard to try and destroy us by using the power of his elected office? Is the government of Alabama so reprobate that it will continue to give Hubbard silent permission to devour all who stand in his path?

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The United States holds itself out as a bastion of freedom and it has been especially proud of it First Amendment Rights. However, Reporters without Boarders has ranked the US forty-ninth in freedom of the press. El Salvador ranks higher than us, even Nigeria and Chile have greater freedom of the press. 

I would dare say that of the fifty states, Alabama would rank near the bottom, if not dead last.

In the book, “Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson and the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture,” by Mark Feldstein describes how Nixon tried to destroy syndicated columnist Jack Anderson.

“He plant[ed] letters and editorials criticizing Anderson,” Feldstein says, and even ordered CIA surveillance of Anderson and his family — and White House operatives seriously considered assassinating the journalist, according to Feldstein research.  he also has stated, “So from that beginning, you have Nixon now retaliating against Anderson, and you have this sense that these dirty tricks are the way Washington works.”

It now appears that this is how Montgomery works because no one dares stand up and call Hubbard out except us and a very small group of individuals.

So, on the day after World Press Freedom Day, we, here in Alabama have little to celebrate because our press is under siege.  Hubbard, wants to cut off advertising, access to the State House and all the things that are an integral part of covering the news.

However, he will not be victorious, because just like Nixon, his own paranoia and vengeful nature will bring him down. Meanwhile, we will continue to report the news, despite the threats, malicious attacks and lack of support.

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We will speak daggers to power, even under the threat of real daggers because that what the press is suppose to do.

Bill Britt
Written By

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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