Unfortunately, bloggers and journalists in Latin America don’t have that same freedom. In countries like Cuba, Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Mexico, journalists have lost their lives in the field. Journalists have become soldiers in those countries with their pens (or now in the age of the internet, their computers) as their only weapons and are martyred as a result.
Yesterday on December 15, 2015, Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ) along with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Jeff Duncan (R-SC) discussed the need for H.Res 536—Supporting freedom of the press in Latin America and the Caribbean and condemning violations of press freedom and violence against journalists, bloggers, and individuals exercising their right to freedom of speech. Both Sires and Ros-Lehtinen know from experience about the censoring nature of Cuban government against the press since both Members fled the oppressive Cuban regimes as children.
Listening to both Sires and Ros-Lehtinen describing the fight against censorship that Latin American bloggers and journalists face made me greatly appreciate the freedom we have here in the US. In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville described the free nature of the press in the budding stages of our country. Tocqueville noted that journalism was a crude but efficient way to keep people in the know about what was happening. In countries where the government doesn’t seek to control people, the government doesn’t feel the threat from people sharing what’s happening at the administrative level. In countries where the administration rules with an iron fist, censorship is crucial for the authorities to stay in their positions.
While it’s extremely cliché to say that knowledge is power, it’s the absolute truth. When people know the truth about their administration, it’s easier to rise up against the oppression and fight for freedom. Freedom of the press reflects a free society as a whole. Unfortunately in tyrannical societies, propaganda keeps people living under the illusion of freedom. But if a journalist were to completely blow away the smog of the propaganda, the tyranny loses power.
In cases like Cuba and Venezuela, both the Castro and Chavez regimes gave the false promises of security and freedom. If both of those regimes never changed the way they ruled but didn’t fight to censor out journalists, both Castro and Chavez would never have stayed in power for as long as they did.
The ideas and principles of a free press are fundamentally rooted in a free country. As long as the leadership of a country rules with transparency, freedom of the press is only a natural occurrence. If there is nothing to hide, what is the need for censorship?