As we unwind from yesterday’s Independence Day celebrations, we urge you not to forget the legions of others – a battalion apart from our military service members – who also have paid the ultimate price to uphold our country’s freedoms. Thanks to the Declaration of Independence, our country’s Constitution and its amendments emerged. The First Amendment protects the right of free speech. One of the most ardent defenders and exercisers of that right is the American media. Protection of free speech in this country contributes to upholding other freedoms. It starts with the revelation of information.
Since our country’s earliest days, newspapers have been pioneers of public engagement and public forums. Their informative content has recorded history, educated, advocated, spurred others to action and entertained. Newspapers also have served as watchdogs over matters of public interest and strived to report with journalistic integrity trustworthy information in a balanced and fair light.
But often, the delivery of such information comes at a dear price. We sometimes forget that. Global history is filled with stories of professional journalists who have been wrongly jailed, intimidated, harassed, threatened and even murdered over the information they dared to present to the public.
Yet there are those who still believe that access to information fosters an educated public, which nurtures critical thinking skills, which leads to inquiry and review. That’s just one safeguard against potential abuses of power. Having the protected right to ask questions, share information, seek knowledge, debate and peacefully assemble in protest of what we see happening in our country can encourage accountability. It helps keep our “rulers” (our officials) and society in order, and works to prevent our nation from descending into destructive governances like dictatorship or anarchy. There are times when questions must be asked and answers must follow.
The events of June 28 should starkly remind our nation that professional journalism can indeed at times be a dangerous civilian profession. Many who fought for freedom through print have died, as have thousands who’ve fought in warzone frontlines.
To our brethren at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md. – we grieve with you. Thank you for your bravery in delivering the news your readers expect. Thank you for your courage under fire. Thank you for continuing to stand for freedom of speech despite the horrific tragedy you have witnessed. We honor you and your fallen.