Column: A flourishing free press supports democracy
National newspaper week recognizes the work of newspapers all over the country, which are charged with providing accurate, illuminating information to the public.
This year, this week is sponsored by the Think First campaign, which celebrates the constitutionally-given right to freedom of press, along with the other four freedoms granted in the first amendment.
Our constitution gives us the right to practice any religion (or not) in safety and without government interference, the right to express ourselves through words and actions without being censored by the government, the right to a free press that can publish both factual information and opinions, the right to assemble and protest peacefully, and the right to petition the government for changes to legislation.
These five rights are both the foundation of our country and a mark of a good, democratic government.
Freedom House, a bipartisan nonprofit organization that is based in the U.S., wrote in 2017 that only 13% of the entire world has a truly free press.
Our healthy, uncensored media, with strong political coverage, protects our status as a free country—though in press freedom we still only rank at No. 37 out of 199 countries.
In order to maintain this status, we must continue to protect the free press and discourage the criticism and censorship of it by government officials.
Some officials, especially in our executive branch, have gotten more blatant in their criticism of the press over the last few years. This inclination toward totalitarianism is partially responsible for the decline in our status as a completely free country, according to Freedom House.
“Journalists around the world now have less reason to believe that Washington will come to their aid if their basic rights are violated,” wrote Sarah Repucci, Senior Director for Research and Analysis at Freedom House.
The reason that I believe free press is so important is because it is the pursuit of bringing truth to light. There is nothing more crucial to our society than the right to publish the truth.
“The truth must be pursued,” wrote the New York Times in their 2017 brand campaign. “The truth is under attack.”
Support for a free press has never been more important than it is today. So, read the news. Choose to participate in protecting your personal freedoms. That is what journalism stands for—writing the truth because it is worth seeking out.