The Privilege of Our First Amendment Rights


In the United States, we are extremely fortunate that our Constitution provides rights to give us, as individuals, the opportunity to express our independent ideas and opinions without persecution. We have a great amount of freedom that many other countries around the world do not. Although at times it may feel to some as if freedom of speech or right to peacefully assemble may be compromised in our modern world, the violations towards the freedom of press are often ignored.

On Oct. 16, journalist Daphne Caruana Galiza of Valletta, Malta was killed by a bomb planted in her car. Galiza was well known for her blog, The Running Commentary, where a great deal of her content addressed corruption within the Maltese government. According to USA Today, her most recent content revealed that Malta’s prime minister and two of his aides were involved in offshore companies that were actively and illegally selling Maltese passports and receiving payments from the Azerbaijani government. Right before her car exploded while leaving her house, Galiza’s last posted words on her blog were: “…there are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”

Surprisingly, Malta is actually ranked by Freedom House as one of the freest countries for the press as of 2017. However, Galiza’s family is now facing the battle of an untrue libel case from the government, and there is a great amount of doubt that the Maltese police will actually solve the case of her murder. Even in the US where our Constitution establishes freedom of the press, over 30 journalists have been arrested in America for doing their jobs so far in 2017. In addition, 30 have been physically attacked for attempting to report the news.

From the perspective of a citizen of these free states, one may seem shocked at first to read those numbers—but, we are fortunate that they are not much higher. Freedom House also reports that only 13% of the world’s population enjoys free press—that is, “a media environment where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.” Globally, freedom of the press is currently the lowest it has been in the past 13 years—with over 45% of the world living in countries where the media are not free.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, only 7 reporters have been killed in the US since 1992. In contrast, the deadliest country for journalist deaths in the past 25 years is Iraq—coming in with 185 deaths with confirmed motives. Of the 1,258 total killed worldwide during this time period, 584 of the deaths were over journalists reporting on politics.

Unfortunately for the US, so far the Trump administration has not put much effort into supporting journalists within our country. Trump’s constant accusations of “fake news” towards reporters, along with his administration pressuring the opening up of libel laws. The President, in many instances, has voiced his opinion that First Amendment protections must be weakened to protect those in power. He has even gone on to call the press’s ability to report on whatever it wishes as “frankly disgusting,” and has called those who believe in freedom of speech as “foolish people.”

As a Communication Arts major here on the Hill, I cannot even imagine my colleagues and I on the Springhillian staff possibly facing these threats one day. Many of us may go on to be journalists in a wide variety of areas, and even possibly in other countries. It is hard to think that our field of study has the possibility to result in assault or even death, depending on the laws and freedoms of where we choose to live and what we choose to report. I am scared to imagine that one day, our country may no longer regard the values and freedoms we have historically been graced with to a higher value.

But, it is important that journalists continue to be steadfast and reveal cold, hard facts. It is important for opinions and corruptions to still be voiced. It is important that the rights of those who tell the truth are protected.

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