Media Policy

The threats to press freedom, from Ferguson to Iraq

(The following originally appeared in The Seattle Times on Aug. 28 as a guest column.)

The complexities of exercising freedom of the speech are now center stage with attempts to intimidate and silence journalists in Ferguson, Mo., Egypt and Iraq.

By David A. Steinberg
UNITY President

FREEDOM of speech. It’s a deceptively simple phrase. And while governments and local authorities have sought to curb this freedom long before it was enshrined in our Constitution, the complexities of exercising this right are now center stage.

The absurd trial of Al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt and the gruesome beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by the Islamic State (ISIS) are perhaps the most obvious attempts to intimidate and silence those who are working to get vital news out to the rest of the world.

But we don’t need to go as far as the Middle East — or restrictive countries like Russia or China — to find instances of the powerful trying to control the voices of the disenfranchised. In a town that could be “Anywhere, USA,” Ferguson, Mo., is serving as a microcosm in the conflict between a government’s need to maintain order and the public’s right to know.

Two reporters were arrested for not leaving a McDonald’s restaurant as quickly as police demanded. A TV crew was hit with tear gas and after it fled, authorities tampered with its equipment. Journalists have been ordered to stop filming police, in clear violation of the First Amendment. In all, about a dozen and a half journalists have been arrested or detained in Ferguson for no other reason than gathering information in a place that law enforcement didn’t want them to be.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Seattle experienced similar instances in the recent past, a glaring example being coverage of the riots at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting.

FCC OKs compromise net-neutrality measure

In a highly controversial vote, the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday approved new rules to prevent telecom companies from tampering with the speed of the Internet services they offer in the name of squashing their competitors. Link »

UNITY’s position on Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality


UNITY: Journalists of Color believes that Net Neutrality is fundamental to maintaining a free flow of ideas and vibrant democracy on the Internet. UNITY believes the integrity of the Internet depends upon the inclusion of diverse media voices and communities of color. We oppose any efforts by means of technological, legislative, or content strategies to block innovation and free speech on the Internet.

Updates and Headlines on Net Neutrality

Media Consolidation

Minority Ownership

UNITY: Journalists of Color believes that America is best served by media that reflect diverse voices, multiple viewpoints, and the widest possible ownership. We oppose additional consolidation of the nation’s media. We believe that media consolidation has a chilling effect on communities of color who are already underrepresented as media owners. We support initiatives that result in increased media ownership by people of color.

Updates and Headlines on Media Consolidation

Updates and Headlines on Minority Ownership

UNITY urges FCC to reclaim its authority on net neutrality

McLean, VA. — In light of the recent court ruling that would block proposed rules to preserve a free and open Internet, UNITY: Journalists of Color urges the Federal Communications Commission to promptly take the legal steps necessary to reclaim its authority to regulate broadband networks.

Comments Regarding Network Neutrality Filed with FCC

Filed by
UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc.
January 13, 2010

UNITY: Journalists of Color is an alliance of four national minority journalism organizations, the Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association whose goal is to increase diversity in newsroom and in the coverage of communities of color. On behalf of our alliance, representing over 8,000 journalists of color, we urge the Federal Communications Commission to protect the openness of the Internet with strong Network Neutrality rules. We have a golden opportunity to avoid repeating the media’s mistakes of the past, and we must seize the moment.