Freedom of the Press is one of our First Amendment rights. It is a right that goes hand-in-hand with the freedom of speech, one of the most highly valued rights of democratic society. However, Freedom of the Press is also a right that is too often unappreciated and overlooked, probably because we as Americans simply have grown accustomed to it without understanding its purpose.
In general, our First Amendment rights are important ones for a number of reasons, but especially because they pertain to the individual rights that are essential to democracy. A threat to these rights is a threat to each and every American citizen, and moreover to the ideals of freedom that are so central to democracy in the United States.
More specifically, Freedom of the Press pertains to the ability to distribute ideas and opinions regardless of whether or not they contradict the beliefs of the government or other citizens. Freedom of the Press is most commonly understood in the context of the American media. The media, often times the bane of every politician’s existence, is ironically an absolute necessity for a functioning democratic government. The media serves as perhaps the most essential linkage institution in America: it’s how we learn about the doings of our representatives and our leaders, but it’s also how major issues and ideas citizens gather attention and make their way onto politicians’ agendas. Overall, while the media is a great source of information for citizens, it is even more crucial when used to spread ideas and opinions and offer diverse perspectives and solutions to problems. Therefore, the media is a tool that promotes individuality and fosters democracy.
The media is important, but it’s definitely not perfect. In the current political and social climate, “fake news” and intense political bias make it extremely difficult to uncover the truth. However, that doesn’t mean that citizens and politicians should turn their backs on the media. In fact, we must do the exact opposite. In a time when the current administration continues to challenge and discredit the media, we have to support it. The media is how citizens learn and it’s how American voices are heard. While the responsibility to seek the truth lies with citizens, and while the truth seems to become more confused every day with current domestic and international affairs, one thing is for certain: the press must remain independent. When Freedom of the Press is maintained, so is democracy.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham might have put it best when he said, “the backbone of democracy is a free press and an independent judiciary, and they’re worth fighting and dying for.”