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December 31, 2012

Give thanks for rights

NORMAN — Each year we look back at events in our community and see a commonality with years past — a vigorous and sincere dialogue on issues. Our readers have had something to say about local developments in politics, crime, social issues, fish fry fundraisers and the environment.

We have published 356 letters to the editor on about as many topics. Of course, the elections drew a lot of written comments from readers, as well.

The United States has a unique tolerance for public opinion expressed freely by its citizens. The Founding Fathers wisely drafted and approved the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “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.”

Unfortunately, many around the world do not have such basic protections for their thoughts and words. Governments often come down hard on anyone who questions why things are the way they are.

This obstruction of liberty is especially noticeable when it comes to journalists. Earlier this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that 232 journalists have been jailed this year for practicing their craft. Turkey has the horrible distinction of imprisoning the most journalists (49). Simply attending a pro-Kurdistan rally there and asking people about their beliefs can lead to imprisonment. It seems Turkish authorities don’t appreciate people asking questions about the treatment of Kurds.

There is a close relationship between the freedoms that a country gives journalists and the freedoms it gives citizens. We are fortunate the Founding Fathers embraced the liberty of personal and collective expression. Without it, the United States would be a much darker place to live.

— Goshen, Ind., News

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