The First Amendment, which states that no law may be passed “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” is a pillar of our nation. The right to speak out and proclaim our truth and the right to protect our nation’s free press are fundamental.
The right to communicate ideas both in writing and in speech is the groundwork that preserves democratic governments. Further, these rights are essential toward preserving human dignity and value.
If we can not speak out about the injustice and corruption we see, even on a small scale, we have nothing. But the importance of journalism goes beyond the word of the law. Ethically, it is our duty to preserve freedom of speech, regardless of scandalous content.
Clearly, the right to a free press is essential. Without access to accurate and reliable information, isolationism and lies are spread easier.
When people are too afraid of repercussions to speak out, the injustices they see are only allowed to fester and grow. When free speech is limited, the truth cannot come to light.
Journalism is under fire in the current political atmosphere all around the globe. Controlling, or even discrediting, the media is one of the best ways to silence independent thought and action. A healthy level of critical assessment regarding our politicians, our government, and even our private institutions is essential to preserving our democracy.
Closer to home, organizations connected with private religious schools in the United States are often prevented from writing anything that criticizes the school or portrays the school in a negative light.
In California, the Leonard law provides private schools with First Amendment protections, but it does not apply to religious schools. However, that does not mean student publications should accept censorship.
While the loopholes in the Leonard law may legally allow an infringement on First Amendment rights in some schools, the right to report on issues affecting the entire community should be universal. School journalism is therefore the best way to instigate change and inspire youth to seek the truth despite pre-established limits; it should not be censored.
Those who muffle the free press, even on a small-scale, may argue there must be a line in order to protect the reputation of established and respected institutions. However, the public has the right to open discussion, and the right to report on both allegation and fact.
In reality, the best interests for the future of our nation fall under exposing the truth and respecting our historic First Amendment rights.