Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

In defense of freedom of the press

Sarah Elliott


On Thursday, Aug. 16, hundreds of newspapers from coast to coast published editorials decrying President Trump’s continual anti-press rhetoric. Trump has frequently criticized and harangued journalists and described news reports that contradict his opinion or policy positions as fake news.
This unusual editorial-writing initiative that enlisted scores of newspapers across America was spearheaded by The Boston Globe.
“We propose to publish an editorial on August 16 on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press and ask others to commit to publishing their own editorials on the same date,” wrote the Globe in its pitch to newspapers large and small, daily and non-daily, metro and rural.
Instead of printing a canned message, each publication will write its own editorial because the impact of Trump’s assault on journalism “looks different in Boise than it does in Boston,” said the Globe.
Previously, The Kaweah Commonwealth has published editorials defending freedom of the press. Below, you won’t see our words, but statements by former presidents, senators, and a few Founding Fathers that this is an American institution that should not be taken for granted.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. —First Amendment, U.S. Constitution
Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. —Thomas Jefferson, Third U.S. president
The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructure of democracy - the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities - which allows a people to choose their own way to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means. Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. president
Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment — the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution — not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply give the public what it wants. —John F. Kennedy, 35th U.S. president
Power can be very addictive. And it can be corrosive. And it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power. George W. Bush, 43rd U.S. president
If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed. —Benjamin Franklin, U.S. Founding Father
No one needs to tell me about the importance of the free press in a democratic society or about the essential role a newspaper can play in its community. Robert Kennedy, U.S. Senator / U.S. Attorney General
If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter. George Washington, First U.S. president
Freedom of conscience, of education, or speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged. —Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. president