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Letters to the Editor

In defense of free, unfettered press
The new administration’s attack on the press as an “enemy” of the people of the U.S. should be viewed with suspicion.
The Constitution has inviolable and institutional guarantees for free speech and for a free press in the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Mr. Trump and his advisers repeatedly attack the media and ask us, as Americans, to view the press as heralds of “fake news, not fair, not friendly” whenever a story or a media question is not to their liking. While I am not a Constitutional or historical scholar, I know enough from my education and upbringing to feel a chill when I hear our President express such scorn for the press, or indeed for anyone, legitimately critiquing or questioning administrative policy or language.
The Constitution does not stipulate that the press must be necessarily “fair.” What I might consider fair is very likely not going ​to line up with another’s definition and that is a good thing as it encourages that most democratic of processes to take place: free, informed and well-rounded discussion of issues from all sides and all perspectives. The press does not need to be “friendly,” either.
What it does need to be is free to serve as a watchdog, a guardian so that no branch of government, no individual or group, has dictatorial power that squelches or diminishes the democratic ideals and principles on which our great country was founded.
Eminent First Fathers, historians and jurists have said it much better than I ever could. As Chief Justice Hughes, speaking for the Court in the De Jonge case, involving ​real and alleged communist activities ​in the 1950s ​said, “The greater the importance of safeguarding the community from incitements to the overthrow of our institutions by force and violence, the more imperative is the need to preserve inviolate the constitutional rights of free speech, free press, and free assembly in order to maintain the opportunity for free political discussion, to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people and that changes, if desired, may be obtained by peaceful means. Therein lies the security of the Republic, the very foundation of constitutional government.”
I would urge all concerned citizens to be vigilant in protecting and standing up for ​a free and unfettered press. Indeed, we should insist on it.
Ann Augustine