December 1, 2016 by Speakers' Spotlight
Speak Of The Week: Christiane Amanpour
Last week, CNN’s chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, received the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, the acclaimed non-profit organization that seeks to protect press freedom worldwide. The prize, presented at their International Press Freedom Awards, was bestowed in recognition of her “extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom.”
Rather than use her 15 minutes on stage to thank all those that had helped her in her career to date –as is norm in acceptance speeches – Amanpour instead used it as an opportunity to exhort her media colleagues gathered in the room to mobilize in the name of protecting journalism – not just around the world – but in the United States itself.
“I never in a million years thought I would be up here on stage appealing for the freedom and safety of American journalists at home,” she began, going on to express her bewilderment at the attacks that President-Elect Trump has levelled against the media both during his electoral campaign and since his win.
Comparing Trump to authoritarians such as Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and the Ayatollahs, she urged her fellow journalists to band together when it comes to defending their right challenge those in power in through their work, arguing that if they failed to do so, the results could be disastrous:
“First the media is accused of inciting, then sympathizing, then associating — until they suddenly find themselves accused of being full-fledged terrorists and subversives….and then who knows?…Don’t stand for being labeled crooked or lying or failing. Do stand up together — for divided we will all fall.”
Amanpour went on to warn that if journalists do not commit to fact-based reporting, and do not commit to defending truth over neutrality, the media itself is complicit in corruption.
I learned long ago,” she recalled, “never to create a false moral or factual equivalence, because then you are an accomplice to the most unspeakable crimes and consequences.”
She also addressed the seeming need of the media recently to shy away from broadcasting or publishing anything that could be deemed overly or overtly “elitist” by the right. “Since when were American values elitist values?” she asked. “They are not left or right values. They are not rich or poor values, not the forgotten-man values.”
In closing, Amanpour reminded her audience not to be complicit in letting hate rhetoric become normalized, and not to be complicit in letting those in power go unopposed, for the consequences could be dire not just for the media, but for America, and the world, at large. “As a profession, let’s fight for what is right. Let’s fight for our values — bad things do happen when good people do nothing.”
For using choosing truth over neutrality, we pick Christiane Amanpour as our Speak of the Week.