Freedom of Speech Comes With Responsibility

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It was adopted Dec. 15, 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights to ensure that citizens of this new nation would be allowed to speak their minds about political candidates, laws and religion without fear of government censorship. This right also extended to freedom of the press. As with any freedom, the right of free speech comes with responsibility. It is this combination of freedom and responsibility that is exercised daily by journalists who report both sides of a story, by commentators who voice their opinions, and by entire news organizations including the Guardian Liberty Voice.

James Madison proposed 20 amendments to add to the Constitution in a speech before the First Congress, June 8, 1789. Ten out of the 20 were ratified by the states and became known as the Bill of Rights. One of those was the right of freedom of speech. In his address, he said, “the people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and that the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.”

There is a difference though between freedom of speech and a free-for-all. Defamatory comments do not accomplish anything except to hurt and demean their intended subject. Those who insist on this type of desperation for page views are not using the right of free speech in a responsible way. When a claim of freedom of speech hurts others with hateful remarks, accusations and false statements, it is not freedom.

Guardian Liberty Voice is a “boldly inclusive” voice. Journalists do not have to adhere to one view over another in order for their work to be published. They are expected to back up their articles with facts from reputable sources. As stated in the preamble of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, “Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.” If an article resorts to insults like name calling or false accusations, it reflects negatively on the writer and the entire publication.

For those who get carried away thinking that free speech means anything goes, there are types of speech that are not protected. Slander (verbal defamation) and libel (written defamation), threats, treason, copyright infringements, trade secrets, and promoting unlawful acts are some of the areas where free speech does not apply. There is a big difference, for example, between writing that someone is holding an empty glass versus insisting that same person is an alcoholic because the glass is empty. Such allegations without proof have resulted in lawsuits. Stating an opinion is one thing but spreading malicious gossip with the intent to harm someone’s reputation, business or threaten national security crosses the line.

Journalists who write for the Guardian Liberty Voice are encouraged to exercise their right of free speech and freedom of the press. Those freedoms, when handled in a professional manner, add to the writer’s integrity, credibility and trust. Freedom of speech comes with the important task of responsibility.

Editorial by Cynthia Collins
Assistant Editor-in-Chief


Freedom of Speech Clause

James Madison speech to Congress

Society of Professional Journalists: Code of Ethics

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