The framers included a free press in the U.S. Constitution under the First Amendment. Thomas Jefferson summed up the reason why, saying “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”
A free press is especially important in today’s coronavirus pandemic. The media are best suited to bringing you useful information about what is happening in your world when they are free to report the facts as they find them. According to Reporters without Borders, there is a clear correlation between suppression of media freedom in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and a country’s ranking in the Index. China and Iran censored their major coronavirus outbreaks extensively. In Iraq, the authorities stripped Reuters of its license for three months after it published a story questioning official coronavirus figures. Even in Europe, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary, had a “coronavirus” law passed with penalties of up to five years in prison for false information, a wholly disproportionate and coercive measure.
How are we doing in the U.S. compared to other countries? According to Reporters without Borders, the U.S. is ranked 45th out of 180 countries assessed. The top ten countries include Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Switzerland, and Portugal. The five worst countries were Djibouti, the People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, and North Korea.
The situation is critical. You can help. For starters, subscribe to a newspaper instead of using Facebook or Google News to get your news for free. After that, consider encouraging your state legislature to find ways to safeguard the central role of a free press in our republic.
See our Learning Modules for additional perspectives on the role of the press.