Freedom of the press is the right to print what you think is true and is enjoyed by only 15% of the world’s population. This right is guaranteed to all U.S. citizens by the First Amendment. However, the right to a free press is one that many world leaders do not allow their citizens to have. The right to a free press means that a journalist can report news that makes the leader look bad. In Russia, it is against the law to publish news that is not approved by the government, and journalists who oppose the government have been murdered. In China and Cuba, all news media is owned by the government.
One aspect of freedom of expression is the right to organize politically. In much of the world, citizens are not allowed to start political parties or support political parties that do not get governmental approval. In the year preceding the 2012 Presidential election, the Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.) did not approve nearly 400 non-profit organizations that wanted to promote conservative ideas. Most think this helped President Obama win the election. In over 60 countries of the world, citizens are not allowed to start a political party and must vote for government-approved political organizations.
There are countries in which citizens find it dangerous, but not illegal, to practice freedom of expression. In France during the beginning of January, Muslim terrorists attacked journalists at a satirical magazine, killing 12. The journalists had offended Muslims by breaking an Islamic law against depicting images of Muhammad. Even though there is no law in France against this, the journalists were murdered. The American news corporation CNN and the New York Times, as well as other American news organizations, have censored themselves, as well, by not showing images that are offensive to Muslims. They claim they are doing this out of respect for religion. However, these organizations continue to show images that are offensive to Christians and Jews.
Most of the countries that are not free are located in Asia and Africa and are either predominantly Muslim or atheist. The world’s most heavily populated country, China, and the world’s largest country by territory, Russia, are not free. All of the countries on the Arabian peninsula, except one, are both Muslim and not free. The only free country in Arabia is the Jewish country of Israel. All of the world’s communist countries are not free, and only one, Cuba, is located in North America.
While it is easy for Americans to imagine that people all over the world live and think the same as we do, the facts are very different. Americans are part of a minority of people in the world who believe in and practice freedom of expression. The majority of the world’s leaders do not want their people to have freedom of expression, and, a great many citizens in countries also do not want to have this freedom. For example, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, there have been widespread rallies throughout Asia supporting the Muslim terrorists. Opposite what President Obama declared recently, freedom of expression is not a universal belief and its practice is the exception to the rule.
1. What does President Obama believe is a universal belief, that is, a belief shared around the world?
2. About what percentage of the world enjoys freedom of the press?
3. What does it mean to organize politically?
4. What do most countries that are not free have in common?
5. Task: Find out what the first amendment states. Why do you think the American Founding Fathers included this in the Constitution?