Monday Nov 9, students at the University of Missouri blocked members of the media from covering a protest against racial tension present at the university. The first amendment guarantees both freedom of the press and peaceful assembly.
The protest, months in the making, culminated in a boycott by the football team, the resignation of the university president and eventually groups of students camping outside in between day-long demonstrations.
No matter the circumstances, people and actions performed in public spaces are open to recording by the public, and therefore the press. Freedom of the press, as guaranteed by the constitution, does not stop at the protest line, in fact it belongs there.
Perhaps those students and faculty members chanting that their picture could not be taken, or that the reporters had to leave, or that the school could establish a media-free safe-space, were unaware that the journalists had every legal right and a professional obligation to take their photos and cover the event. However, allowing the event to go undiscussed because of their ignorance does a disservice to the protesters, more so than simply not correcting their mistake.
We of Otterbein360 believe that a free and democratic society necessarily relies upon the ability of its citizens to engage in the open exchange of ideas and limiting that exchange by any means necessarily inhibits our freedoms. Censorship does not have to come from universities, government offices or private organizations. It can and does come from individual citizens who take action to silence the voices of others.
It comes from the racist professor who doesn’t call on minority students in class, it comes from the sexist employer who refuses to invite female workers to sit on the board. And now, at the University of Missouri it comes from student and faculty protesters who were physically pushing away members of the press that were attempting to provide coverage of the protests.
We must protect the ability of our media to keep the community informed, to hold its leaders accountable and in the case of student journalism, to have access to the same learning opportunities available to other disciplines. You would never force a teacher out of a classroom or a scientist out of their lab; don’t prevent any journalist, but especially students, from covering the news in their communities.
We stand with the University of Missouri, we stand with student newspaper The Maneater, we stand with journalists and protesters and citizens everywhere who have a voice and want to be heard. We believe in the power and necessity of a free press and therefore denounce the actions of those members of the University of Missouri community who knowingly stood in the way of our principle freedom: the first amendment.