On Oct. 1, Canadian Border Patrol (CBP) detained photojournalist Ed Ou for six hours and searched his encrypted mobile phones. Ou was on his way to cover the Standing Rock protest for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. He was denied entry into the country.

Though the CBP wrote the incident off as a normal border search, the American Civil Liberties Union says otherwise. In a letter, they say the CBP took “advantage of Mr. Ou’s application for admission to engage in an opportunistic fishing expedition for sensitive and confidential information that Mr. Ou had gathered through his news-gathering activities.”

This is just one of the many recent attacks on journalists in the United States. Over the course of the last few years, it seems journalists are being harassed more and more for just trying to do their jobs.

America’s trust in the media is at an all time low. According to a Gallup poll, only 32 percent of the public trusts the media, and only 14 percent of Republicans say they can trust what journalists are reporting.

The poll credited this drop due to the dividing nature of the last presidential campaign. President-elect Trump is known for hating the media. He routinely heckles and harasses the press at rallies. One New York Times video shows a rally where the press was confined to a pen as Trump pointed to them and egged on his supporters as they yelled obscenities and “CNN sucks!”

The President-elect has taken to Twitter to call Politico “pure scum” and “a puppet of Obama.” He once called the press the “lowest form of life.” Trump also said he would stop his incendiary tweets if the media would “cover him fairly and accurately.”

Trump’s rhetoric is only the most recent battle in the war against the press. While covering the Ferguson protest, the press was tear gassed and unlawfully arrested. One officer pointed his gun at and threatened to shoot a reporter for filming him (even though it’s his constitutional right to do so).

In an effort to sterilize the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military is extraordinary hostile toward journalists who take and publish pictures of fallen American soldiers, a common practice in all other wars.

The First Amendment ensures the freedom of press. This was done to ensure the press would act as something known as the fourth estate, a check on the government. While the other three branches check one another, the press checks the entire institution. With a president who hates the press so much we could see the end of the uncensored media, a fundamental pillar of our democracy.   

On Nov. 8, many Americans, most unknowingly, handed Donald Trump a way to spy on the press. They handed him the NSA.

When Edward Snowden exposed the NSA surveillance program, he also exposed a way for the government to monitor journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, “the U.S. government could recreate a reporter’s research, retrace a source’s movements, and even retroactively listen in on communications that would otherwise have evaporated forever.” The power of the NSA surveillance program is a very powerful, scary thing in the hands of Donald Trump.

Journalists have given their lives and  freedom to protect sources and expose corrupt politicians. America runs on the fact that the government will always be held accountable. Donald Trump is trying to undermine that. It looks like he has come under the impression that he can say and do whatever he wants because he’s the president. It seems like he believes that no one will stop him or check him.

No matter how hard the president- elect tries, the media will continue to do our duty to the American people and cover everything he does, every move he makes, and every deal he strikes.  The media will continue its role as the Fourth Estate, the ultimate check on the executive office.

If the “lowest form of life” was able to connect five burglars to the most powerful man in the world back in 1972, God only knows what we’ll find on President Trump.

Featured Photo Credit: Featured photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr.

Sara Karlovitch is a freshman journalism and government and politics major and can be reached at skarlovi@terpmail.umd.edu.

One response to “The Collapse of the Fourth Estate: Donald Trump and the Press”

  1. onereasonableperson Avatar

    “This is just one of the many recent attacks on journalists in the United States.”

    Not saying that your thesis is incorrect, but if the Canadian Border Patrol did anything at all, they did it in Canada, not in the US. Therefore, your reasoning is really off here.

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