By Dr. Ann-Marie Adams
In these times, information is crucial. So is transparency, free speech and accountability. That’s because Gov. Ned Lamont recently issued his “stay home, stay safe” executive order, and the state is on lockdown. Therefore, the order effectively quarantined many residents infected by the coronavirus. And other residents stayed home to stay safe. Moreover, state officials adopted other efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, such as text messages. For instance, the state recently sent out a CTALERT message about the COVID-19 virus; however, many residents did not receive that message.
In fact, some residents with prepaid phones did not get an alert from the Connecticut Emergency Alerting and Notification system. However, those on two-year phone contracts apparently received the text messages. This implies that about 30 percent of Connecticut residents, including the elderly population on fixed incomes, did not get any text alert. That’s alarming.
The role of the press is, heretofore, extremely important in helping government to disseminate information. Freedom of the press is the cornerstone of democracy. Government workers and other civilians should play a part to ensure that they are transparent and that media get unrestricted access to news and information. This can only help retard the growth of the coronavirus.
Therefore,government workers, who help to suppress a journalist, must be held accountable, and perhaps be ceremoniously fired in these times of unprecedented hardship because of disruptions to many lives. That disruption includes job losses, medical emergencies, homelessness, and other social ills. The suppression of the Fourth Estate, such as refusing to send media advisories to a journalist or failing to respond to freedom of information requests, should be seen as a treasonous offense.
No journalist should be persecuted and suppressed for criticizing the government, or speaking truth to power. In fact, politicians and other officials who are sensitive to criticism by the press should not enter office in these times. It’s unfortunate that some politicians and other officials are still in office covering up malfeasance in this state since 2014. In fact, Hartford City Hall; now lacks transparency and suppresses the media–a first in the almost 20 years of observation by this publication. Unprecedented.
As a result, Connecticut journalists are calling on the General Assembly to pass a special resolution to protect journalists from those who harm them in the quest to hold elected officials accountable. Even if the perpetrators include other journalists, who may covertly suppress their competition.
The effort to retard the spread of the coronavirus must be dealt with from all angles. That includes an informed press–no matter the size or scope. Transparency of government officials, their intent and actions, is of the utmost importance because it will help gain the confidence of many scared residents relegated to work from their homes.
The role of the press in informing the citizenry is a treasured tenet of democracy. Therefore, we are calling for special resolutions from the General Assembly to help protect the fourth estate in Connecticut—in these times and beyond—as journalists work to ensure a free and robust democracy.
Dr. Ann-Marie Adams is the editor and publisher of The Hartford Guardian, the first award-winning, nonprofit, nonpartisan, hyper-local news organization in Connecticut. It aims to build communities by increasing the level of civic participation in the state. Before that, she worked as a journalist for 20 years at various newspapers and television stations in New York, Connecticut and Washington, D.C.