The First Amendment must be supported and protected
Just a few weeks ago, we rallied to support the front lines of the pandemic – our medical professionals, employees of essential businesses and other first responders. Among those we cited were those who served to provide important information for our public’s safety during these unprecedented times.
In the span of the last seven days much has changed.
The twin challenges of a pandemic and surging unrest have redrawn the front lines in an existential struggle that is simultaneously pitting Americans against disease, economic calamity, racial division and other Americans.
Today, I am writing to rally you in support of two essential pillars that will allow us to meet the twin challenges we now face.
Five freedoms are guaranteed to all Americans in the 45 words that comprise the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Two of those freedoms are currently under assault – the right to peaceably assemble and the freedom of the press.
Let us all be clear: Journalists are NOT enemies of the people. We ARE the people. We are people who are doing our job to provide our fellow citizens with truthful, objective reporting –information that is essential to sustaining a democracy. We are people who are the eyes and ears of the American public.
Yet despite the critical role they perform in our supporting our republic, across the nation some of our journalists have become victims of violence and unjustified police harassment and detention. We have heard reports and seen stories of working journalists, clearly identified as members of the press, being challenged, harassed, pepper-sprayed, shot at and arrested in the course of their Constitutionally protected duties. This is intolerable in America today, or any other day.
We need your collective support to ensure that every local, state and federal police officer along with the sheriffs and deputies in all jurisdictions in Florida, take notice that our journalists are getting caught in the crossfire and being obstructed in getting this important work done.
We call on you the public and our local officials to honor the freedoms granted to us as Americans and defend the rights that many of you have sworn to uphold. It is essential for our democracy for journalists to be allowed to do our job on the front lines. So, this is a message of support for our governor, local officials, county commissioners and mayors to let our journalists do the job that our country was founded on.
Two of those five freedoms – the freedom of the press and the right to peacefully assemble — have never been more important than they are at this moment. Let’s honor our United States Constitution and protect it from those who wish to trample on those rights.
First Amendment to the United States 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.
Be well. Be safe.
Jim Fogler is the President and CEO of the Florida Press Association and Intersect Media Solutions.
This op-ed may be republished in FPA member newspapers.