Quotes concerning freedom of speech and freedom of the press

| February 29, 2012 | 3 Replies

Like many people, I’m a collector of quotes. This batch includes some of my favorite quotes concerning the freedom of speech and press:

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freedom of
speech.”
Benjamin Franklin

“The one thing that’s worse than hearing about all that violence and all that bad news on
television is not being permitted to hear it.”
Charles Kurault

“Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment– the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution–not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.”
John F. Kennedy http://surftofind.com/secrecy

“When the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”
Thomas Jefferson

“The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to
keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without
newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the
latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading
them.”
Thomas Jefferson

“If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.”
Thomas Jefferson

“Nothing could be more irrational than to give the people power, and to withhold from them
information without which power is abused. A people who mean to be their own governors must
arm themselves with power which knowledge gives. A popular government without popular
information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps
both.”
James Madison

“To the press alone, checkered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs
which have been obtained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.”
James Madison

“Let the people know the facts, and the country will be safe.”
Abraham Lincoln

“Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press,
with trained intelligence to know right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue
without which popular government is a sham and a mockery.”
Joseph Pulitzer

“If the press is not free, if speech is not independent and untrammeled, if the mind is shackled or
made impotent through fear, it makes no difference under what form of government you live, you
are a subject and not a citizen.”
U.S. Sen. William E. Borah

“The organization of our press has truly been a success. Our law concerning the press is such that
divergences of opinion between members of the government are no longer an occasion for public
exhibitions, which are not the newspapers’ business. We’ve eliminated that conception of
political freedom which holds that everybody has the right to say whatever comes into his head.”
Adolf Hitler

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien
philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth
and falsehood in an open market is afraid of its people.”
John F. Kennedy

“A free press is not a privilege but an organic necessity in a great society. Without criticism and
reliable and intelligent reporting, the government cannot govern. For there is no adequate way in
which it can keep itself informed about what the people of the country are thinking and doing and
wanting.”
Walter Lippmann

“A democracy ceases to be a democracy if its citizens do not participate in its governance. To
participate intelligently, they must know what their government has done, is doing and plans to
do in their name. Whenever any hindrance, no matter what its name, is placed in the way of this
information, a democracy is weakened, and its future endangered. This is the meaning of
freedom of press. It is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.”
Walter Cronkite

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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Adam Herman says:

    I hate how the corporate media and the professional journalistic class has distorted the meaning of “the press” in our Constitution to mean some privileged class of people with unique rights. Even JFK apparently believed this.

    The corporate media does of course have press rights, but so does Erich Vieth. So do I. The freedom of the press is not the freedom of the media, it’s the freedom to publish. It is not a corporate right, it is an individual right that we all possess.

  2. Adam Herman says:

    And thanks for correcting, my misspelling of your name. :)

    I tend to have a more absolutist view of the 1st amendment than most, but I think that bloggers are a natural ally against the desires of the mainstream media to define the freedom of the press as benefiting solely themselves. And shockingly, courts have occasionally granted them special privileges that are denied to non-professional journalists.

    Journalism is something one DOES, and when one is engaged in journalism one receives, or should receive, all the protections afforded to the practice.

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