Our Constitution enshrines the principle of free expression and the right of the press to report the news and to criticize our chosen representatives, free of state interference. Under our system of government, journalists play a fundamental role in the maintenance of a democracy, informing and educating the public so that the public may act with intelligence and wisdom in holding their representatives to account. Press freedom is the right on which all of our other rights rest.
For years, certain elements of the government have derided journalists and the work they do with a number of epithets, all of which are familiar and none of which are worth repeating. And this spring, as protests have erupted nationwide, the press has come under even more pernicious assault. For the last week, we have seen the news reports and cell phone video in which law enforcement officials have detained, arrested, gassed, or fired upon reporters in the performance of their duties. Whether Los Angeles or New York, Buffalo or Louisville, Washington D.C., Detroit, or Minneapolis, during that period law enforcement has attacked the press more than 150 times.
Under any circumstances, we should revile state violence against innocent citizens. But when the state targets a journalist, we must see that as an attack on our own freedoms – our freedom of conscience, our freedom of education, of speech, of assembly – of every value that we hold dear because these are the very values that a free press serves to protect.