Editorial: Pen still sharper than the sword
In America, free speech is the ultimate freedom
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 02:03
As Americans across the country continue to debate gun control and the freedoms that the second amendment provides, it’s important to recognize that what truly makes us free is not what we are allowed to shoot, but what we are allowed to say. There is nothing more important to a free society than freedom of speech.
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” is what the first amendment to the United States Constitution declares. This amendment allows the public to hold the government accountable for its actions. It ensures that the American people have the right to know about the government’s dealings through a free press and that they can freely speak their opinions, as well. It is what allows us to openly debate topics such as gun control without fear of government intervention. It is what allows newspapers like this one to take a critical look at politicians, from local representatives all the way up to the president himself.
Consider some of the most oppressive regimes in the world. One of the common denominators amongst these countries is a distinct lack of free speech or press. Whether it’s North Korea or Iran, China or Uzbekistan, these regimes quash dissent through censorship. State-run media spreads skewed messages to promote the government and to denounce its critics. Those who speak out are quickly silenced, one way or another. To those of us outside of these countries, the human rights violations seem obvious, horrific and outrageous. These governments know that knowledge is power, that the general populace can be galvanized if it is fed too much of the truth and is then allowed to speak publicly about it. So, they do not allow the public to debate their actions, instead keeping their operations secret and their people quiet.
This is especially relevant considering that last week was Sunshine Week, an initiative that aimed to highlight the importance of an open, transparent government and freedom of information.
It is up to the independent media, of course, to push for as much transparency as possible in all of our public institutions. It is our charge to question public officials, to file right-to-know requests and to report essential facts to our readers so that they can make informed decisions.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press still are, and always will be, the cornerstones of democracy. The right to bear arms, while an important part of our country’s history and Constitution, does not guarantee our freedom. The right to debate, criticize and speak out about our nation’s issues, that is what separates a free society from tyranny. As long the free market of ideas and opinions is allowed to flow unhindered, Americans will be a free people.