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Limiting speech, no matter cause, is slippery slope

Freedom of speech wasn’t placed as the First Amendment to the United States Constitution for no reason. Its placement represents the country’s forefathers’ belief that a country without a free press isn’t a country worth living in.
Recently, we’ve seen examples from ‘less free’ countries, like Russia and China, who have state-controlled media, of what exactly life in the United States would be like if not for the First Amendment.
China banned some journalists prior to the Olympics, while Russia’s Pravda news agency put a positively pro-Russian spin on the country’s aggression into the former Soviet republic of Georgia, now a democracy of five million people.
While the rest of the world has been watching Russian tanks move farther and father into Georgia, displacing and killing innocent Georgians despite a so-called cease fire, the Russian people are being told the world is watching and wondering how their country will defend itself against the aggressor Georgia.
A recent column in Pravda online states: ‘Even Americans are saying, ‘Thank you, Russia, for standing up to the crackpots in control of our government.’ As much as the corporate elitist media in the west blathers and carries on with lies and obfuscation about the events in Georgia and South Ossetia, as much as they try to cover up the facts and the truth and the war crimes committed by their puppet state, Georgia, they have failed to convince the world community.’
Interesting; that’s not exactly how I’ve seen the facts unfold. Georgia, a democratic, sovereign nation, agreed to a cease fire with Russia, but not until last week, long after French President Nicolas Sarkozy first and then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice negotiated cease fire agreements between the country. That’s when Russia began pulling back, and even then the Russians were taking Georgian prisoners as late as last Tuesday.
However, the people in Russia will never know the truth because the facts have been distorted. In reality, who can blame the so-called journalists for doing so? Events under former President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former member of the KGB and a man described by British historian Max Hastings as Stalin’s spiritual heir, haven’t exactly been without suspicion.
Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko is a prime example. A former Russian spy who fled to the United Kingdom after rebelling against Russia and later wrote unflattering books about his homeland and Putin, Litvinenko mysteriously died of radiation poisoning in late 2006.
While we don’t have a state-run news agency in this country, we sometimes do run across those who want to limit free speech, whether it be that of the media or the right to assemble. Their intentions may be noble but often are short-sighted. If we allow an agency, governmental or otherwise, to filter the information we provide the public, then we’re not living on the basic tenet upon which this country was built. If we allow the First Amendment to be meaningless, then the others, and the Constitution as a whole, will follow in due time.
I don’t always agree with fellow Clarion News’ reporter Lee Cable’s political columns; in fact, we’re pretty much polar opposites, but I have never withheld one of his columns from print because I believe he has a right to express himself, whether I agree with him or not. That’s what a free press is about.
To do otherwise would make what we do as journalists pointless. We cannot, nor will we, be controlled by someone telling us what to print or what not to print.
After all, this is still the United States of America and the First Amendment remains alive. To believe otherwise, no matter how noble the reasoning, would simply be unAmerican.

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