Courtney C. Radsch
This week, Project Syndicate talks with Courtney C. Radsch, Advocacy Director at the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Project Syndicate: In your latest PS commentary, you condemn the police who have “assaulted, arrested, and shot at” journalists covering the unfolding protests against systemic racism and police brutality in the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota has since filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of journalists who were targeted and attacked by police while covering the protests there. To what extent can this or similar lawsuits provide “swift and meaningful accountability”?
Courtney C. Radsch: Lawsuits are a crucial tool in the effort to hold police accountable for violence against journalists covering the historic protests now underway. They can lead to concrete changes in law and practice, and set new precedents clarifying what is and is not acceptable behavior in a democracy. The ACLU’s lawsuit can do all of that, and deterring police from using violence against journalists in the future undoubtedly amounts to meaningful accountability. But lawsuits are rarely swift. That is why other, more immediate steps must be taken to identify and punish violent officers, and to ensure that crowd-control tactics do not end up harming journalists (or protesters, for that matter).
Law-enforcement officers need appropriate training, vetting, and support, so that they fulfill their obligation to uphold the law, including the rights enshrined in the US Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and of the press, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble. Journalists must be able to report freely on events, without fear of injury or reprisal.
PS: Some of the US police attacks against journalists, you note, appear to have been racially motivated. You also recently retweeted a thread in which journalists of color discuss the racism and discrimination they’ve faced in newsrooms. How should journalists and editors, whether in the US or elsewhere, confront their own profession’s institutionalized biases?
CCR: As a media scholar, I’ve been thinking a lot about structural racism in journalism, especially lately. I think about journalism as the twentieth-century French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu did: as a “field of practice” comprising practices, values, norms, and subject positions that, in many cases, reify the status quo. That includes replicating systemic bias and inequality.
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We ask all our Say More contributors to tell our readers about a few books that have impressed them recently. Here are Radsch's picks:
by Carla Power
A beautifully written exploration of the Quran and Islam, viewed through the eyes of a Western journalist who spent a year exploring them – in all their complexity and simplicity – with a sheikh. Whether you’re a religious scholar or have never read a religious text, the questions, debates, and interpretations that are woven through Power’s account dismantle stereotypes about a monolithic Islam and will impel you to think more deeply about your own beliefs.
by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein
This thought-provoking book delves into the power dynamics shaping data science and data ethics, compelling the reader to reconsider what they think they know and how they know it. With stunning visualizations drawn from multiple disciplines, and footnotes that transcend the canon, this is a must-read for journalists, academics, and anybody else seeking to build a more just and equitable world.
by Shoshana Zuboff
This is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. In the “age of surveillance capitalism,” all aspects of the human experience can be rendered in behavioral data, which are used not only to predict but also to shape behavior. Just as the rise of industrial capitalism led to climate change and environmental devastation, Zuboff argues, the advent of surveillance capitalism threatens the future of humanity. To move beyond the interminable debates about content moderation and understand today’s real threats to free will and democracy requires understanding the nature of the surveillance-capitalist system, and how it is shaping our world.
From the PS Archive
Radsch highlights a disturbing trend of targeted violence by police against journalists covering protests. Read more.
Radsch shows how official measures to contain the spread of misinformation are victimizing legitimate journalists. Read more.
Around the web
Last March at the Camden Conference, Radsch gave a talk on how to ensure press freedom in an age of information warfare. Watch the video.