Four million marchers and 44 foreign leaders rallied in Paris Januuary 11 to protest the shootings of the 11 journalists from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. “Je suis Charlie” became the free world’s unifying response to the terrorists who had attempted to end one of humanity’s basic rights: freedom of speech.
A healthy democracy requires free speech and informed citizens, and we are fortunate that the Founding Fathers guaranteed this right in the First Amendment. It allows all voices and perspectives to be heard without fear of repercussions. Thus it allows people to be informed and equipped to make reasonable decisions in the exercise of their roles as citizens.
When radicals attack the press they are simultaneously attacking the freedom of all citizens, the freedom those journalists on January 7, 100 journalists in 2014, 120 in 2014, and 133 in 2012 died for.
President Thomas Jefferson noted the power of the free press when he said, “The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”
In the wake of such a tragedy all people are reminded of how important the journalist’s voice is to society. Journalism without free speech is just another method of propaganda. Censoring thought-provoking free speech is not an option. As journalists we respect the power of free speech. We exercise the powers granted by the founding fathers.
Journalists are not perfect. Exercising the right to free speech allows others to disagree and form their own opinions. Journalists must work independently and the decision to censor must come from the journalists themselves whose duty is to the people not bullies or those in power. As student journalists, The Voice staff strives be strong enough to speak out when needed and to help create well-informed citizens by giving our fellow students the information and perspectives to be responsible, informed, aware, and courageous citizens.
Without free speech there is no freedom. Free speech is not only a power for the person behind the pen. It is the power of the people.