Understanding the First Amendment is essential


Over the past ten years, there have been numerous world events that have made headlines across multiple media outlets. There have been new presidents elected, votes concerning gay marriage and Ebola outbreaks, just to name a few. But there is something happening that has seized to catch the attention of the world: murderers are walking free.


According to a report issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 90 percent of murderers who have taken the life of journalists have faced no punishment. As many as 370 journalists have been murdered over the last ten years. Statistically, this means that, 9 out of 10 times, there is no conviction in journalist murders. This lack of justice brings light to governments failing to step up. Nov. 2 was deemed International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists as a way to call for justice.


According to The Guardian, “UN and regional intergovernmental bodies are urged to take concrete steps to hold member states accountable to their commitments to combat impunity. And journalists are called on to monitor and report on whether these pledges are implemented.”


But these attacks are not just simply attacks on human life, but attacks to what these journalists live to protect: press freedom. The Prairie recently held a Town Hall Meeting regarding First Amendment issues because most are confused as to what the First Amendment truly protects. It protects everyone.


The press is just an outlet to educate and inform citizens. Journalists hold this unacknowledged pact with society to serve them, to inform them, to provide them the truth. But it’s society as a whole that has these rights. Just because a person walks around with a press pass or owns the title of journalist does not mean they have extra rights, or extra protection under the First Amendment.


The Prairie has put learning the First Amendment at the forefront of our practices. We say the First Amendment at the beginning of each meeting. We print the First Amendment in our print edition. We have it in big bold letters on the wall of the newsroom. Because we stress the importance of knowing the rights provided to us, the staff as a whole discusses First Amendment issues in the newsroom frequently. When issues of First Amendment coverage are being denied to students on campus, we take that issue seriously. Students are protected under the First Amendment just the same as anyone else. The university happens to be a public institution, and students are allowed to document by taking photos or videos in public places, unless there is a sign stating otherwise. No student should be asked to delete documentation by authority figures, or fall victim to censorship.


Students are killing their voices and murdering their freedoms by not fully understanding the First Amendment in its entirety. Students should make every effort possible to educate themselves on the freedoms they have been granted. Knowing your rights and understanding when authority figures violate your freedoms is essential. It is only when citizens truly know their freedoms that they cannot be taken away or infringed upon.


According to the First Amendment Center, “Without the First Amendment, religious minorities could be persecuted, the government might well establish a national religion, protesters could be silenced, the press could not criticize government, and citizens could not mobilize for social change.”


Journalists every day in foreign countries risk their lives as they live out their First Amendment freedoms. These journalists put themselves in danger to do in a foreign country what they can do, for the most part, without consequence in their homeland. Journalists purposely place themselves on the frontlines of politics, war, turmoil, poverty and oppression every single day in order to bring light to things that happen daily around the world. Journalists put themselves in danger to practice freedoms that most citizens aren’t even aware of or knowledgeable in.