[OP-ED]: Killed for reporting the truth – what would Trump say?
Incredibly, especially for those of us who called him our friend, 25 years have passed since the murder of fearless journalist Manuel de Dios Unanue, at a Spanish restaurant in New York City. The courage to expose Colombian drug capos and their poisonous presence in his city, cost him his life.
"No one can tell me what I can't write,” the tall, thin, intense Unanue would answer those who would warn him about the risk to his life. He was well aware it was a dangerous business. But the Cuban-born journalist was not willing to compromise.
As I wrote in the Daily News 12 years ago, “The warnings of danger became reality. On a tragic evening 13 years ago, a hooded and slightly retarded 16-year-old gunman known as Mono, calmly walked up to Unanue at the Mesón Asturias restaurant in Jackson Heights, Queens, and pumped two bullets into his head. The murderer had been paid $4,500 by Colombian drug capos, who had been on the receiving end of tough Unanue scrutiny. The crusading journalist fell dead in a pool of blood, leaving behind a companion and a 2-year-old daughter.”
"It seems to me he laid down his life for all society," John Cardinal O'Connor told the 1,500 people who attended an emotional memorial service at St. Patrick's Cathedral a few days later.
Unanue, the former editor of El Diario-La Prensa, the oldest Spanish-language daily paper in the country, was 48 when he was killed on March 11, 1992. It was the heyday of the Colombian drug cartels, and their pernicious influence extended to New York, especially Queens, where he lived and died. Unanue's death was a grim reminder - and a reality check - of how fragile freedom of the press is, even in the U.S.
"We know any murder is a heinous crime," said Mary Jo White, who was the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York at the time. "But when the victim is murdered because he reported on the truth, we are all the victims here.”
Surreally, a quarter century after Unanue gave his life to report the truth, the First Amendment is under attack by the very same people entrusted with its defense and protection: President Donald Trump and the twisted cabal he has surrounded himself with, champions of “alternative facts,” half-truths and shameless lies.
It makes sense for Trump to try to suppress the truth from coming out, undermine the media credibility and disparage freedom of the press. After all the seemingly never-ending list of his offensive, questionable and outright despicable actions is nothing to be proud of.
As I am sure many readers remember, Trump warned during the campaign that he would “open up” libel laws to make it easier for him to sue news organizations if he was elected president.
Well, however questionably, he was.
And since his arrival in Washington, the former reality show actor has made no secret of his contempt for freedom of the press and free speech –for the right to tell the truth Unanue gave his life for.
These past few days I have found myself wondering what would Unanue, fearless journalist murdered 25 years in Queens, N.Y., say about the Trump’s miserable attack on the First Amendment of the constitution?
I can almost see him, eyes glaring, defiantly shouting for all to hear: “Speaking out and telling the truth has never been more important.”