Editor’s Note: Christiane Amanpour is CNN’s Chief International Anchor. The opinions in this article belong to the author.
I want to begin this piece on the deepening trials and troubles of a free press by pointing towards peace.
The talks about talks between the warring sides in Yemen that took place earlier in December are a cause for hope. This was the first time Houthis and the Yemeni government have met, and even shaken hands, in more than two years.
Yemen is called the worst war and the worse humanitarian disaster in the world today.
There is only one reason peace talks have taken on this urgency: the brutal murder and dismemberment of a journalist.
Jamal Khashoggi’s indescribable end at the hands of his own government has concentrated the minds of the world – most notably in the United States Senate, which has real power to affect the welfare and well-being of its Saudi allies.
Therefore, I believe Jamal’s death makes him a martyr to the cause of peace, after hundreds of thousands of deaths, and as half the Yemeni population hover on the brink of famine and mass starvation.
This year, Time magazine has quite justly named Jamal among “the Guardians of the Truth”, and made them its Persons of the Year. This is vital recognition and a moral marker, as the Committee to Protect Journalists releases yet another depressing year-ender, concluding that silencing journalists all over the world is now the new normal.
It’s happening everywhere, most hypocritically in Turkey which stood up in great moral indignation at Jamal’s murder, but has just turned around and jailed another seven of its own journalists. Around the world the CPJ estimates at least 251 journalists were jailed in 2018. This follows a three-year trend, but also a small decrease over last year, when a record 260 journalists were jailed.
I seek hope even in small increments.
But to be hopeful, and to stand our ground, we in this profession have to be strong and determined and persistent. Because the war on journalism and journalists is coming from all sides, and at a time of major crisis in global leadership.
Not only are we not protected by our traditional defender, the United States of America, we are in fact increasingly vilified and endangered by the administration there. A clear demonstration that words in fact do have consequences was the round of pipe bombs and real threats directed at individuals and members of the press like CNN – all targets of the President’s wrath.
And as the free press comes under sustained assault in corners of Europe, even the EU is failing to stand up for us, under the weight of its own political crises.
How will we continue to navigate not only a world of physical danger, but also this post-truth world? There are only two options: to surrender with an exhausted shrug, or to fight on.
The only way I know is to fight – and to keep fighting for the truth. Because now, we are all Khashoggi – we are all the guardians.
Let us resolve to head into another new year doing as Congressman John Lewis teaches from his Civil Rights struggle – and that is to go out and make good trouble.
Extremism in defense of the truth is no vice, to paraphrase Barry Goldwater.
Remember what Thomas Jefferson admonished: “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
If a robust independent press, reporting without fear nor favor, was good enough for a founding father, then surely it’s good enough for everyone.
And let me end as I began: good, independent, fearless journalism makes positive change possible. It took Jamal’s murder to influence the pace of peace talks in Yemen.
And those of us who remain can point to all the positive change that we have affected, from peace in the Balkans, to uncovering and ending famines, to freeing child brides and sex slaves, to uncovering corruption, and the list goes on and on. This is a fight worth waging.