Michelle Betz and The Issues with Press Freedoms

By Kara Dung

Posted on Thursday, April 26th, 2018 at 5:27 PM PDT

Journalists’ work is how we get our news, whether it is in print or online. Recently in the profession of journalism, the protection of press freedom has become a big issue. Even though the U.S. Constitution has the First Amendment guaranteeing the right to free speech, recent assaults on journalists has prompted a Congressman to propose the Journalism Protection Act. This law, if passed, would make it a felony to physically abuse a journalist.

In Hawaiʻi on the Big Island, the Big Island Now website reported about international journalist Michelle Betz. Betz has helped with organizations around the world, raising awareness and support for the development of professional and independent media. Specializing in media for conflict-affected environments, Betz’ influence covers over 20 countries with the issues of press freedom, many in the Middle East and Africa.

Betz spoke out about her experience in Sub-Saharan Africa supporting press freedoms, with her main focus on conflict-sensitive journalism and response work in Africa. Betz described her experiences to the Big Islands Press, starting out with one of her first media jobs with the work she did in Rwanda (2003) to help people in poverty and students in a post-conflict place, to here work in Egypt (2011) as she is considered a convicted felon.

She was working as a director for a Middle East program in Egypt for a few months. While working there, she didn’t know that the people she was working for were work not registered with the Egyptian government, and had charges against them. The office of got raided, she was indicted and convicted. Betts was charged with receiving funds illegally from embassies, operating without a license, and other charges. She was not in Egypt when this case went to trial (she had returned to the U.S.) she was still considered a convicted felon.

Crackdowns of the press continue there and in many other places in the African nations. On March 23rd Betz spoke at the Big Island Press Luncheon more about her experiences with her line of work.