The importance of press freedom

Today, May 3, World Press Freedom Day is celebrated and it is propitious to underline how vital this guarantee means for the survival of the open society.

The freedom of the press consecrated and fulfilled in all the Constitutions of civilized countries, on the one hand, is essential for the purpose of expanding knowledge at all levels, since only by giving free rein to the thinking of each one it is possible to embark on the process of trial and error to reduce our ignorance and incorporate some fertile land in the context of provisional corroborations and refutations. On the other hand, it is essential to keep political power in check with all criticism and diverse opinions on their behavior.

It’s known that as the nineteenth-century historian Acton has pointed out: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Outside the controlling agencies and the necessary division of powers, the fourth power must operate without any restrictions. The best legislation on press freedom is the one that is not enacted.

Jefferson has written: “Between the dilemma of a government without press freedom and freedom of the press without a government, I strongly favor the latter.” Authoritarian have tried to silence voices, which is an inadmissible outrage. Milton, in his speech on freedom of the press, in 1644, prioritizes that freedom over other civil liberties: “Give me the freedom to know, to express and discuss freely according to conscience, above all other freedoms.”

Humanity has already had to endure enough burning of books, inquisitions, censures and other knavery that at this stage of the 21st century have to endure megalomaniacs who, in the name of ill-conceived purity, continue with their litanies in favor of a single discourse. “The Imprisoned Reason” entitled John M. Bury one of the chapters of his classic history of freedom of thought where it says: “New opinions are considered as dangerous as they are annoying, and anyone who asks inconvenient questions about why and for what accepted principles is considered a pernicious element.”

Thanks to independent journalism (a redundant expression but given the time we live is worth the adjective) government corruption have been discovered since Justice has not always been sufficiently agile and efficient to detect these crimes. This in no way means that all journalists are honest, what is involved is to open wide the competition and all the voices. Nor does it mean that you can slander with impunity, but judicial remedies, in the cases that are pertinent, should always be ex-post facto, but never previous censorship, which constitutes a fierce slapping of civilized coexistence and a mortal step for free spirits.

Except for honorable exceptions, Woody Allen has rightly written: “Our politicians are corrupt and inept and sometimes both on the same day.” Mistrust in power and the permanent monitoring of their steps is essential for the tranquility of citizens.

I take this anniversary to insist on the need to eliminate so-called state news agencies, instead of protesting unequal deliveries of official advertising. If there is something that should be announced by the state apparatus of the moment, it should be communicated at a press conference, without the need to set up government news agencies. Governments have nothing to do in these fields, just as they must refrain from intervening in paper business and similar regulations.

I also take the opportunity to suggest that property rights for electromagnetic waves be assigned to avoid the dangerous figure of concessions on the part of the state apparatuses, which are a sword of Damocles since the concession holder is, in fact, the owner from space.

In these lines, I want to expressly acknowledge all the independent journalism and the enormous gratitude to all the tasks and sometimes ungrateful efforts for their exemplary work, both in the radio, television, digital and paper media. Serious and responsible criticism is the characteristic of those who dedicate their lives to journalism. Permanent research is a food for all good people.

Published in INFOBAE
Written by: Alberto Benegas Lynch (h)
President of the Academic Council, Libertad y Progreso

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