Yesterday, as American newspapers were glutted with continued coverage of Osama Bin Ladin’s death, most readers were completely unaware that May 3 was “World Press Freedom Day.”
The observance was declared by the United Nations 20 years ago and on May 1-3, for the first time, the primary celebration was hosted by the U.S. That’s appropriate, because Americans know about and cherish press freedom, while many other countries have needed the reminder, hence they were chosen for earlier ceremonies.
Press freedom can be profoundly irritating, because it allows for fringe elements as well as responsible journalists to promulgate what they deem to be news in both print and through digital means.
But press freedom can also be profoundly rewarding, for precisely the same reasons.
There are times, no doubt, when many of us wish there was a law banning bellicose radio, TV, or Internet pundits from stirring up the gullible by telling lies, but if we’re going to have a free press, it has to be free.
Would any of us want to live in a country where the government restricted what the public could hear, censored all news outlets, and disabled any Internet sites that didn’t toe the line?
It’s hard to imagine, but still a reality among some repressive regimes, though I believe their days are numbered. With information sources like Facebook and Twitter available, news often spreads faster than censors can act to stop it — and when information is freely available, freedom often follows.
Thank God today for something you take for granted every day: a free press.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.