ASNE stands ready to defend First Amendment rights, strong democracy

Columbia, Mo. (Nov. 9, 2016) - After this long, tortuous election season, Americans went to the polls Tuesday to exercise their right to vote, perhaps the ultimate expression of free speech in the United States. However, throughout this campaign, Americans have seen extraordinary assaults on their First Amendment rights to free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press. These assaults have come from many political spectrums and walks of life. At some universities, students expressed outrage at the practice of chalking, writing messages on campus sidewalks, when those messages were in support of a specific candidate. At a religious-based campus, a university official censored a student who wrote a column in opposition to GOP nominee Donald Trump. It has been suggested that some political candidates' rhetoric amounts to hate speech and, thus, should be censored. We have heard instances of Americans being targeted because they practice a specific religion. We have also heard proposals to weaken the nation's libel laws to make it easier for individuals to sue the press. Elected officials, as well as candidates, have tried to control their messages by refusing to talk to journalists, attacking journalists personally and sometimes harassing journalists' sources. And on it goes.
The American Society of News Editors, representing newsroom leaders across the country, believes that the First Amendment and the freedoms that it protects are fundamental underpinnings of our democracy. We know that attacking the press is a well-worn tradition in our country's politics. We also know that our Constitutional rights to a free and independent press, to speak freely and to practice the religion of one's choice have served as a beacon to the rest of the world for centuries. In many countries, one can still be jailed for political beliefs, and journalists are persecuted for reporting on sitting governments and corruption. As America introduces the 45th president, ASNE stands ready to fight vigorously for all the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment so that democracy, however messy it may be, thrives for generations to come.