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February 1, 2018carrierweb.png

The First Amendment is a powerful tool

Saif Sarfani, Campus Carrier Guest Contributor

The arrests of journalists internationally have become all too commonplace in recent years. Freedom of the press is not explicitly recognized as a right in many countries. Fortunately, in the United States, the First Amendment protects both freedom of speech and freedom of the press constitutionally, enabling us to write, say, publish and criticize virtually anything. 

However, many countries have journalists arrested for reporting government wrongdoing or criticism of elected officials. There isn’t freedom of the press in China, Sudan or Ethiopia, which causes tension between systems of power and journalism. Nevertheless, journalists do their job by reporting on issues that matter. 

Reading about international journalists being detained for simply reporting the truth and doing their job reinforces the importance of the First Amendment. 

Not only are we able to criticize the government, we can hold them accountable. The fact that truth is suppressed in many other countries also makes me realize that freedom of speech and the freedom of the press are treasured and protected. 

International journalists know they face a harsh reality when they are going to do their work in countries that could detain them. 

This just goes to show how limited the First Amendment protections are because they are not law outside the United States. 

Just in being able to write this editorial allows me to express my right without fear of scrutiny by the government. I can express thoughts that may otherwise be censored elsewhere. 

The New York Times recently reported that journalists in Sudan were arrested while covering protests’ over the country’s inflation. Authorities have frequently confiscated newspapers and detained them for reporting that displeases longtime Sudan president Omar Hassan al-Bashir. 

In the Philippines, 38-year-old law student Jover Laurio, who ran the Pinoy Ako Blog in anonymity, quit her day job because armed bodyguards keep an eye on her after she was revealed as the writer. Laurio is a critic of the Philippine president Rodrigo Duetre. 

Our democracy can flourish because we can call out politicians for their unethical deeds because we can stay informed through news. 

It’s sad to hear that reporters get arrested because their work upsets the government or displeases its president. That stops them from telling the truth. Journalists’ voices matter because they have the power to keep citizens informed. 

I value freedom of the press as it keeps me up-to-date on a wide variety of issues. U.S. journalists can report facts that show government misconduct, wrongdoing, etc. and they do not have to fear landing up in jail. 

This just goes to show that the First Amendment is a powerful tool for strengthening a democratic society, but outside the United States, its use is limited in scope and sometimes nonexistent. 

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