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Essential to Democracy: The Right to Free Speech

Jessica Rivera, Opinions Editor

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This is not only a fulmination to the press, but to all American citizens and their fundamental rights. ”

 
There have been many threats to free speech in the past few months. As Americans, free speech is one of our fundamental rights and it is sad to see that right slowly being stripped from our own citizens and those of other countries.

   One of the most extreme examples of recent attacks against freedom of speech is the murder of Saudi Arabian Journalist Jamal Khashoggi. According to a worldwide news agency, the journalist fell into self imposed exile and moved to the U.S., where he wrote a monthly column for the Washington Post criticizing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. On October 2, Khashoggi went to Istanbul to receive a document that verified his divorce. During this visit, the journalist was tortured, strangled to death, and dismembered and, according to Turkish sources, the actions were caught on audio recording (bbc.com).

   This inhumane murder goes to show just how far rulers will go to eliminate any negative opinions of them that may appear in the press. Criticism of a government or a ruler’s political actions does not warrant any punishment at all, let alone the loss of a life. A journalist was simply doing his job and using his platform to exercise his right to free speech, and was tortured and assassinated as a result. It is terrifying to think that this is the kind of world we live in, that the solution to stop one man’s honesty is execution. This man was treated not as a human being, but an object that stood in the way of royalty and therefore was disposed of.

   Another situation that is endangering free speech is the election of right-wing Brazilian Populist Jair Bolsonaro. The president-elect has stated in campaign speeches, “These red outlaws will be banished from our homeland. Either they go overseas or they go to jail,” referring to his political rivals that he plans to designate as terrorists (theguardian.com). This dictator-like president-elect has antagonized and alienated a large group of people in his own country to the point of exile. To think that a person with such an extreme aversion to opposing viewpoints has been elected to office by his own people in this day and age is absolutely terrifying and unacceptable.

   According to a business website, Bolsonaro shares the same tendencies and rhetoric as U.S. President Donald Trump, as they have both illustrated misogynistic, homophobic, and militaristic views (businessinsider.com). This does not come as a surprise, as President Trump has made many threats to free speech with his constant complaints and criticism of “fake news.” According to the Washington Times, Trump has repeatedly said he intends to change libel laws so that it is easier to sue publishers. Additionally, his lawyers have sent a cease and desist letter to the publisher of an upcoming book that condemns Trump’s administration (thewashingtontimes.com).  He is trying to silence all opposition.

   As a country that is built on the promise of freedom of speech and freedom of press, given by the first Amendment of the Constitution, these intentions and actions are ludicrous. AP Government Teacher Michelle Fournier said, “I understand that there are politicians that don’t like the way that news is being presented, but blanketing the press as the enemy of the people is a very dangerous practice that is currently happening with our administration. You can’t have democracy if people don’t have the freedom to express themselves.” While Trump says he is attempting to make America great again, he is in fact doing the opposite. He is tearing down the democracy that America has spent years building and progressing. This is not only a fulmination to the press, but to all American citizens and their fundamental rights. Without free speech and free press, the United States cannot call itself a democracy.

   The murder of Saudi Arabian Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, election of right-wing dictator Jair Bolsonaro, and antagonization of the press by President Trump are all displays of outrageous attacks on freedom of speech. As citizens of this earth, we cannot continue to allow such heinous people to hold such powerful positions.

  The right to free speech should be one that is universal, yet it is still not protected in all countries. Without freedom of speech, citizens have no way to express how they feel about the government, which leads to dissatisfaction. All people deserve to have a voice that is unfiltered and authentically theirs.

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Essential to Democracy: The Right to Free Speech