Free Press: Every Day

Defend the value of a free press: Every day

Media face all kinds of restrictions. All too often some governments:

  1. Restrict media via “indirect means” : by regulating what media can air or publish, by mandating that journalists are licensed, etc.
  2. Restrict media, through the courts, by compelling journalists to disclose their confidential sources or their notes
  3. Deny journalists access to places and events
  4. Impose broad-brush laws, such as those against “incitement” that prohibit journalists from writing or producing stories that the government believes will cause public demonstrations.
  5. Censor certain types of information or prohibit media from publishing or airing information about an event even before the event occurs

And there are other non-legal restrictions:

  1. There are economic restrictions (it may be too expensive for a media outlet to travel to cover a certain story).
  2. There may be religious, social or cultural inhibitions about covering certain stories (only certain kinds of news about women might be considered appropriate to cover), etc.
  • Class discussion: Should the government ever censor the media? Remember public support for censorship of certain kinds of messages (i.e. pornography and hate speech) can be a wedge for the state to censor/restrict other information.
  • Follow-up discussion: Some popular musicians include hateful messages towards women or other groups. (Hate speech often involves repetition of simple racial or religious or sexual or other slurs and can include calls to violent action, the listing of people to be harmed or killed, instructions for how to find them, etc. Hate speech promotes fear, intimidation and harassment of individuals as well as groups. Hate speech may provoke murder and even genocide of those it is targeted against.) If you believe that a musician or someone else in the public eye is disseminating hate speech, what should you do?
  • Student exercise: Are there any dangers in limiting speech? What examples of hate speech should not be allowed? It might be helpful to consider some historical examples of hate speech. What if the hate speech were not made in the context of music or videos but were in speeches by political figures? Who should decide what’s allowed?

DEFEND THE VALUE OF A FREE PRESS

  • Student exercise: Using everything you have learned in this class, write a 500-word opinion piece (as if you were writing it for your local paper) defending the right to freedom of expression in your country every day, and ESPECIALLY when national security and local law and order are at stake.

➢ Your opinion piece should answer why it is that citizens MOST need their freedom of expression during times of crisis.
➢ You will want to explain how Freedom of Expression strengthens the relationship between the governed and the governing—and helps individuals in their own lives.

  • Alternative student exercise: You may decide that for your audience that there are other ways to tell others about the importance of Freedom of Expression. Some options would be:
  1. make a poster
  2. draw a cartoon
  3. design a T-shirt
  4. write a song
  5. make a one-minute video
  6. make a lesson plan for 10 year olds
  7. survey adults’ opinion on the right to Freedom of Expression AND announce the results in your student newspaper or radio station, etc.
  8. approach a local media organization to support a contest for students–perhaps a contest that would judge submissions of posters celebrating Freedom of Expression. See if the organization will agree to give a reward for the best posters…and to publish those.