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In defense of a free press

March 31, 2023

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

Yesterday morning, Evan Gershkovich ’14, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal based in Moscow, was detained by Russian authorities on espionage charges for doing the same job that journalists around the world do every day.

Gershkovich is not only a journalist, but he is one with close ties to the Bowdoin and Bowdoin Orient communities. His treatment by the Russian government is appalling and makes us concerned about the future of our intellectual freedom. As student journalists working for Gershkovich’s former publication and considering similar career paths, it is impossible not to feel the weight of his detainment.

As we look to our futures—some of which may include reporting or academic research—we hope to enter a world where we can pursue our intellectual interests with freedom, integrity and importantly, safety. Events like these underscore the importance—and fragility—of free, truthful and daring reporting.

Such freedoms are not routinely challenged in our everyday lives in Brunswick, Maine—for the most part, we have access to a wide variety of accurate, well-researched and reasonably independent news sources at any given moment.

Freedom of the press pertains to both access and involvement. Anyone can submit a letter to the editor to the Portland Press Herald or protest the reporting of a story in The New York Times. We have the freedom to engage with or write about anything we want.

However, it is necessary to recognize these freedoms are and have not always been universal. Internationally, events such as Gershkovich’s detainment remind us that freedom of the press is not a given. And recently, within the U.S., we see parallels in Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill and in many other instances of academic and educational censorship around the country.

Journalists and academics have the capacity to change the world. Through innovative thinking, creativity and research, they uncover truths and stories buried under history, bureaucracy or forgetfulness. A free press is an integral part of a democracy and, we argue, any thriving society.

Intellectual freedom means not just having the right to express your ideas but also a societal responsibility to coexist with those of others. No one should live in fear that their ideas will cost them their freedom.

No matter where you are, the freedom of the press ought to be maintained and effortfully defended.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is composed of Miles Berry, Andrew Cohen, Nikki Harris, Juliana Vandermark, Halina Bennet and Seamus Frey.


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