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The Blue & Gray Press | August 17, 2017

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Freedom of press unwelcome at University of Missouri protest

Freedom of press unwelcome at University of Missouri protest

By HANNAH PARKER

People are very quick to protect someone if there is a violation of one of our legally mandated freedoms, but when it comes to the freedom of the press this protection flies out the window.

Sometimes the press can come off looking like a group of dirty, low-life scumbags whose goal is to produce yellow journalism to ruin someone’s life, and although there are plenty of bad intentioned journalists in the world, this is not the majority. The majority’s goal is to report on events occurring in our nation and around the world so that the public can become more informed.

So if a journalist’s goal is to inform the public on events happening in our world, why would people be inclined to deny them their basic freedoms?

According to the New York Times, the Concerned Student 1950 advocacy group who was pushing for better awareness of racial issues at the University of Missouri, attempted to block student photographer Tim Tai from photographing the protest. The group said that Tai was not respecting their wishes for a private protest and was asked to leave the premises by the protesters and some of the faculty members.

They were chanting things such as, “Hey hey, ho ho, reporters have got to go,” and said that Tai did not have a right to be there. Tai countered the group by expressing that these photographs were for ESPN, a national news company, and that it was his First Amendment right to be there.

After months of protesting by Concerned Student 1950 due to the lack of attention given to racial issues on campus the president of the university, Timothy M. Wolfe, resigned. The protesters were overwhelmed with happiness and celebration, but Tai was not able to document the historical event.

This situation can be summed up very simply in words spoken by Tai, “The First Amendment protects your right to be here and mine.”

These protestors were adamant that Tai needed to leave because it was their right, their First Amendment right, to freedom to a peaceful assembly and petition. But what they were not considering was Tai’s First Amendment right to freedom of the press.

Just like these protestors had the right to protest peacefully on campus, Tai had the right to photograph their protest, as a member of the press. Not only were these protesters infringing on Tai’s rights, they were disregarding the job he was sent to achieve.

“We’re documenting historic events with our photographs, and when people are crying and hugging when Wolfe resigns, it becomes a personal issue that people all over the country can connect with,” Tai said. “It’s my job to help connect those people to what’s going on.”

Tai was not one of the scumbag journalists, as these protestors probably viewed him as. He was trying to help them. Had the actions of Concerned Student 1950 not been reported on to the rest of the country, protests in support of Concerned Student1950 would never have happened at other campuses such as University of Central Florida, James Madison University, University of Tennessee and Stephens College. Journalists may be seen as the ones impeding on others rights, but let us not forget that journalists also have rights that cannot be impeded on.

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