OPINION | Free speech privileges not worldwide; use them wisely, often

As a journalist, there are few words more important to me than those in the First Amendment.

It’s that lovely set of 45 words that keeps people from being persecuted for speaking against the majority, for explaining why they think the way they do or for simply disagreeing with a public official.

My favorite week of the year, Free Speech Week, is quickly approaching, and it encourages people to raise their voices when they don’t like something.

It’s easy to be offended by something someone does or writes, but it takes courage to respond to it.

Hold this right in high regard. Not everyone is allowed this right, so if you’ve got it, use it and use it often.

In 1996, when the Taliban seized control in Afghanistan, they gave residents two weeks to stop “moral corruption” by throwing out television sets, videos and satellite dishes.

China’s constitution protects the freedom of speech and press, but its laws include media regulations with vague language to stop the publication of stories that would “endanger the country.”

On a smaller scale, the protection of speech is important to the staff of The Butler Collegian as an open forum, free from editorial control by administration and other university officials.

In the Oct. 5 issue of The Butler Collegian, an editorial cartoon ran alongside our staff editorial, “Independents need more ownership of Homecoming.”

The cartoon, now available online, sparked controversy from people who said it lacked taste and innaccurately portrayed the relationship between Greeks and independents.

While I’m not going to argue whether I supported the decision to publish the cartoon as it ran, I will argue that it was important for the publication to have the right to publish it, regardless of the public’s opinion on the matter.

If the First Amendment wasn’t in place, this discussion wouldn’t exist.

If people disagreed—and they did, as evidenced by numerous letters to the editor—they have a forum in which to do so.

The First Amendment protects the exchange of dialogue.

So while our staff editorial vote may reflect what we felt at the time of the vote, the letters we receive in response open us up to a whole new set of views and opinions.

So next time something ruffles your feathers, say something about it, or better yet, write a letter to the editor.

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