Authoritarian governments are free from tough questions

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The last time I wrote something for our newspapers it was for an interview we had with the last editor in chief of Turkey’s largest daily newspaper before the government took it over and shut it down. 

He is now living in exile in the United States. 

In fact, his newspaper was one of more than 160 media organizations that were shut down or taken over by the Erdogan government, which has jailed hundreds of journalists, lawyers and judges throughout his rise to power.

What was the only Muslim secular democracy in NATO, a long-time ally of the United States, Turkey is now joining the ranks of authoritarian governments. 

During our interview, I asked him if something like that — a slow erosion of democracy — were ever to happen in the United States, how would we know it is happening?

What are the signs? His answer?

First, they would start by jailing journalists. 

Well, last week a reporter in West Virginia was arrested for yelling questions at Roswell’s own Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Tom Price.

The reporter did not threaten Dr. Price. He did not yell profanities or attempt to make physical contact with him in any way. He simply asked a question, repeatedly, that Dr. Price was not answering. 

He was arrested on the charge of willful disruption of state government processes.

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt later asked Dr. Price if the charges against the journalist should be dropped. 

This is a softball question. 

“Of course they should be dropped. No journalist should ever be arrested for asking tough questions. This is America, after all.”

Done. Simple. Who would argue with him for an answer like that? 

Instead, he said:

“Well, I’ll leave that to the local authorities. Look, this fellow, we were walking into the state Capitol, and a fellow was yelling at us, which is not necessarily unusual from the press. But I turned the corner to head on into the round table, and something happened afterwards. So I’d leave that to the authorities there.”

When pressed to give a different, better answer, Dr. Price declined, repeated his previous answer and added that the Capital Police had done a “stellar job.” 

We are now arresting journalists in America for asking tough questions, and the leaders of our country are complimenting the manner in which the arrests are made. 

It’s happening. 


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