Journal Address: Free press vital for democracy

Journal Staff

“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 petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

These words were enacted into law over 225 years ago by 10 of the 14 states in the United States of America which had only declared its independence from Britain 15 years earlier. The 2nd President of the United States John Adams once said, “The liberty of the press is essential to the security of the State.” The 3rd President of the United States Thomas Jefferson once said, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” Without a doubt, in a democratic-republic such as this one, freedom of the press is essential.

Think about it: if the press wasn’t around to inform voters on what current officials were doing and what candidates believed, on election day, how would the voter know what each person does and believes? Without the press, we would blindly pick people to represent us at all levels of government, from the people who fix our roads, to the guy who has access to the nuclear launch codes. The idea of a society without a free press is very unsettling, not only to us on The Journal, but also to those aforementioned former presidents.

Unfortunately, the freedom that has been extended to the press is under attack.

The 45th President of the United States Donald Trump said, “It’s frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever they want to write.” Sorry, what? You’re the President of the United States. You literally took an oath where you said you would, “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.” Not to alarm you or anything, Trump, but the First Amendment, which guarantees the freedom of the press, is in that same Constitution you swore to preserve.

However, what’s even worse is that he’s not the only one. State Representative Jim Lucas, a Republican from Seymour, Ind., has drafted a bill that he might propose in the next session of the Indiana General Assembly requiring that journalists in the state of Indiana have to be licensed by the state to be published. According to the IndyStar, “His proposal would require professional journalists to submit an application to the Indiana State Police. Journalists would be fingerprinted as part of the process and would have to pay a $75 fee for a lifetime license. Those with felony or domestic battery convictions would be prohibited from getting a license.” Besides the fact that this is unconstitutional, it is an eerie message to send to journalists.

Besides informing the electorate, journalists distribute information in a rapid manner to make the public aware of events as they happen. If the press was censored or subject to prior review by the government, information would not only be old and outdated, but could also be incomplete and lacking of the whole truth. Imagine if the government could edit photos and videos before the public saw it. The way we see events and vicariously witness them would forever be different.

This has even been evident within Perry Township. On the day of the bomb threats last year, The Journal was there tweeting out information as we got it to help inform students and parents of what was happening. Even this year with the firing of former Superintendent Dr. Thomas Little and the passing of English teacher Megan Woodward, the press helped inform the public and tell the story of these events. The press has played a vital role in making sure that the parents and families of Perry Township are informed and aware of what was happening.

Journalists should feel free to practice their craft and inform the public. Our democracy thrives on an informed electorate, and often times the press is where the information comes from. It’s time for the president and others to stop attacking journalists and allow them to do their jobs without fear and harassment by the government and its officials.