Many Americans, including those of us in the media, take freedom of the press for granted. In chasing down a story or fighting for open records and meetings we cite the First Amendment and recite the mantra about "the public's right to know" so often that it's bred a certain public cynicism that the press is sometimes more concerned about exploitation than information.
Surely, some of that cynicism is justified. Wherever there is freedom, there are going to be excesses. That's the price of freedom. But if unfettered speech and press are sometimes abused, unfettered governments are much more abusive.
Governments can become tyrannical, deadly, dangerous. And a free press, despite all its shortcomings, is the best bulwark against that happening. Where public access to information is denied, corruption is rampant and standards of living suffer.
From this perspective, a free press is a necessity, not a luxury, points out the World Association of Newspapers, which this publication is proud to be a member of, especially on this day - World Press Freedom Day.
For most countries freedom of the press is the exception, not the rule. In nations like China, Cuba and Iran, reporters, editors and publishers are routinely assaulted, detained, harassed or even murdered. Last year 52 journalists were killed in 26 countries and more than 70 are being held in prison.
Indeed, just a few weeks ago the Russian government, reverting to the bad habits of the old Soviet era, shut down the last bastion of a free media in that country.
We gladly join the WPA today in recognizing the many human sacrifices made in the global struggle for press freedom and urge governments of free nations to put as much pressure as possible on governments of oppressive nations to open their societies to the free flow of information.