Why a Free Press matters to the world
by Kalson Yussuf
The United States is admired by the world because of the democracy we practice in this country. The First Amendment in the Constitution gives us the right for free press, one of the principles of our democracy. From past experiences we know that citizens who are denied the freedom to write and speak about political opinions feel oppressed and end up in disastrous outcomes.
My parents are natives of Somalia and had to flee the civil war that is going on to this day for the last 28 years. I always wondered why Somalis were fighting for years considering they have the same religion and language. My father told me that it all began with the denial of freedom of press. He told me that the president who was in power before the war was from a minority clan and was very insecure that the other clans would overturn his government. So to protect himself, his family and his clan decided to censor the press. Anybody who wrote or gave political views would be arrested and later killed.
Naturally all the citizens were very curious and would do anything to read prohibited articles about what the president was doing to their country. The president became a dictator and killed anyone who wrote any political opinion. They had only one radio station and he controlled it. He made sure they talked about him the whole day, every day. The station used biased information that was very misleading. There was no democracy due to the lack of a free press. He was elected unopposed because the citizens were afraid to defy him and there was no press to report what was going on. The citizens eventually formed a resistance army. After a lot of struggles his government was overthrown, and he fled the country on a donkey!
Somalia lost half its population in war and famine and a large population are living in other countries as refugees, like my family. Somalia is just one example of a country that has had a long unending civil war because of a dictator that was created by the lack of free press. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Myanmar, the Central African Republic to mention a few are countries going through the same problem. Whenever there is something going on in the world, we receive the information from citizen journalists and bloggers who keep us informed of everything that is happening.
As soon as President Trump came to office he signed an executive order that stopped refugees/immigrants from seven majority Muslim nations entering the United States. News outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, and Reuters reported on how the ban and illegal immigration was affecting refugees, immigrants, and even American Muslims. Citizens started paying attention, and we saw protests all over the nation. Another example is the #MeToo movement which came about with the help of free press.
A society without free speech can never be a healthy and successful country.