Free press: Pen still mightier than the sword

There can hardly be more disconcerting examples of what happens when the truth is managed to make room for propaganda than Brexit or Donald Trump’s US presidency. This is a live issue, as this month’s White House capitulation on CNN reporter Jim Acosta shows. Acosta challenged Trump and provoked his infantile temper. The president tried, but failed, to have Acosta banned from the White House. Acosta was attacked on live television, so it might be worth considering what the president might dare do in private.

The Downing Street press office played the Acosta card during UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to Scotland this week. It denied a press conference place to a representative of The National, a pro-independence paper. This attempted silencing had, unsurprisingly, a counterproductive impact. Already under sustained fire over Brexit, Mrs May is accused of trying to subvert Britain’s free press.

It may, in this age of a Mark Zuckerberg increasingly beyond the control of any government and the distorting Cambridge Analytica, seem quaint to speak of the security a free press can offer, but, like Poland’s or Russia’s, like China’s or Turkey’s, any citizenry without one is vulnerable. Like the years of your youth, you don’t really appreciate it until it’s gone. However, that Trump and May still try to undermine their country’s free press confirms the pen can sometimes still be mightier than the sword. Long may it be so.

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