Goshen News, Goshen, IN

December 26, 2012

First Amendment frees writers to have their say


— Each year as we look back at the events in our community we see a commonality that links this year with years gone by — a vigorous and sincere community dialogue on issues.

Whether it be politics, crime, social issues, fish fry fundraisers or the environment, our readers have had something to say about local developments this past year. We know this because on this page we publish as many letters to the editor as we can each week.

As of today, we have published 356 letters on about as many topics. Of course, the presidential and congressional elections drew a lot of written comments from our readers this year, but a host of other issues were in play on the editorial page as the year passed.

The United States has a unique tolerance for public opinion as expressed through free speech by its citizens. The Founding Fathers made a wise decision when they drafted, and then approved, the 1st Amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Unfortunately, many people around the world do not have these basic, God-given protections for their thoughts and words. Instead, governments around the globe often come down hard on anyone who questions why things are the way they are. This obstruction of liberty is very noticeable when it comes to journalists.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported earlier this month that 232 journalists have been jailed this year for practicing their craft. Simply attending a pro-Kurdistan rally in Turkey and asking people why they are there and what they believe in can lead to imprisonment for journalists. Turkey has the horrible distinction of imprisoning the most journalist (49) this year. It seems Turkish authorities don’t appreciate people asking questions about the treatment of Kurds in Turkey.

There is a close link between the freedoms given journalists in a country and the freedoms given to citizens of that country. In the United States we are very fortunate that the Founding Fathers embraced the liberty of personal and collective thought and wrote it into the Bill of Rights. Without their foresight, the United States would be a very different and darker place to live.