Members united in defense of a free press

Ron Hasse From The PresidentOn Thursday, Aug. 16, more than 350 news publications across the country joined in a united voice to support the rights afforded to us as journalists in the First Amendment.

From Idyllwild to Sacramento, from the inland valleys to our coastal cities, CNPA members joined fellow media organizations by contributing thoughtful opinions clearly defending our newsrooms and soundly disputing our reporting efforts as “fake.”

At the Southern California News Group, Executive Editor Frank Pine penned a column and our Opinion department published editorials running in 11 local dailies supporting those freedoms.

As Frank noted, the editorials published Aug. 16 were not “thin-skinned editors whining about mean things the president said.” That’s not us. We’re journalists. We’re tough, hardworking publishers, editors and reporters working without bias or agenda.

And we recognize that a free press is foundational to a free democracy. Defending the rights of journalists extends beyond our state and national borders. In May, UNESCO led the 25th celebration of World Press Freedom Day. This year’s global theme was “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law.” The conference addressed transparency in the political process, the independence of media and the accountability of state institutions toward the public. Sound familiar? These are values held dear in the First Amendment; values that are under attack worldwide, particularly in places like North Korea, Russia, Turkey and China, which Reporters Without Borders cited as chief offenders.

These meetings and reports show that a censored press belies a deeper sickness: A threat to a free press is a threat to fundamental human rights. The U.S. Senate – also on Aug. 16 -unanimously adopted a resolution affirming “the vital and indispensable role that the free press serves to inform the electorate, uncover the truth, act as a check on the inherent power of the government, further national discourse and debate, and otherwise advance the most basic and cherished democratic norms and freedoms of the United States.”

It’s encouraging to see legislative support for the work we do. In advance of the November midterm elections, that support is timely and valued.

As you know, CNPA is the sole lobbying organization in the state that protects and enhances the public’s right to know. We have long been the primary advocate behind enactment of California laws that allow access to government records and meetings. Every year, CNPA defeats or materially amends bills that would restrict public access or would adversely affect our rights under the First Amendment.

As your CNPA president, I welcome the opportunity to engage with our representatives in Sacramento, and I appreciate the work our board and membership continue to perform each day in defense of the First Amendment and the Fourth Estate. The actions we take in solidarity locally have impact globally.

On that note, I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce new board members Emily Charrier, publisher of Sonoma Media Investments’ Petaluma Argus-Courier and Sonoma Index-Tribune; and John Diaz, editorial opinion editor at the San Francisco Chronicle. Welcome, John and Emily.

As we draw closer to a very busy November news cycle, we should recognize the important work we do and stand proudly with our colleagues in defense of our rights and responsibilities as members of the working press.

We are always going to support the First Amendment and a free press. And we’re unified in our belief that a free press matters.

CNPA President Ron Hasse is publisher and president of Southern California News Group.