Updated: Oct 14
Fort Lauderdale Celebrates Free Speech (“Ripped From The Headlines” Takes Place June 28th @ FAT Village)
BY SALLY-ANN O’DOWD FOR SALLYODOWD.COM
Trump is the so-called leader of the free world, but there is nothing free about it when it comes to journalists. (Immigrants in cages are not free, women losing their reproductive rights are not free, but I’m focusing here on the First Amendment).
At his 2020 election rally in Orlando, Trump pointed at the group of professional journalists there to cover him. Were they human in his eyes? No, they were “fake news.” While supporters chanted “CNN sucks,” one man became violent and was arrested for assaulting a journalist from the Orlando Sentinel.
In Montana, Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte — the wealthiest man in Congress — has announced his run for governor. This is the man who, in 2017, assaulted Ben Jacobs, a reporter from The Guardian who asked him about healthcare policy. Body-slamming the First Amendment, Trump called Gianforte “my guy.”
Regardless of one’s political viewpoints, we must all stand up for the rights of journalists to do their job. I would not be able to post this blog without it, nor you read it. The first step toward a dictatorship is the loss of free speech and a free press, which — in a democracy — questions authority for the public’s benefit.
My activism began in 2015 when two Al Qaeda members murdered 11 French journalists at French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Starting off with a series of blog posts, I went on to self-publish the multimedia, interactive, video-infused e-zine Creativity Is Risky: Free Speech in a Charlie Hebdo World. I was elated with the opportunity to discuss it with Salman Rushdie at a festival hosted by literary human rights organization PEN America.
Since then, I’ve covered the January 2017 pro-speech rally at the New York Public Library and been interviewed by Channel 7, Miami’s ABC affiliate, while marching for women’s rights in Fort Lauderdale. For Lifestyle magazine, I interviewed a student journalist and her teacher at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., — scene of the February 2018 mass shooting — about student press rights.
My passions have led me to my newest project: producing “Ripped from the Headlines: The Free Speech Forum” at FATVillage, Fort Lauderdale’s artsiest area. It takes place June 28 from 6 – 9 pm.