A free people, a free press

The Akron Press Club creates a forum for our community to discuss issues of the day. There are no more important issues at this moment than racial justice and the ability of a free press to tell that story.

The events of recent weeks resulting in the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia brought protests in Akron and beyond demanding an end to the blatant racism that culminated in these tragic events.

The protesters are raising their voice to demand racial equality, respect for all citizens and genuine change.

In doing so, the people are exercising their First Amendment right to free speech, the right to assemble and the right to petition their government. When prayers are added to the protests, people are exercising freedom of religion.

The majority of protests have been peaceful, as people make their voices heard. Some violence also has become part of the protests.

Hard-working journalists have told the story of this moment in our history as we struggle to move past the systemic racism that had held our country back.

Unfortunately, as the free press exercises its First Amendment rights, journalists have been subject to violence and harassment by police and other officials who have sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Police have fired rubber bullets at clearly identifiable members of the press, with one photographer losing her eye. Journalists have been arrested and pepper sprayed, even after identifying themselves as members of the press.

These journalists are not committing crimes. They are doing their jobs to tell us the story – and they are serving our democracy in a role framed by our Constitution.

The free press plays a crucial role in documenting what is happening in our communities and sharing that story to a wide audience. The free press also serves as a watchdog over our government, telling that story for better and worse. These stories are a necessary part of our democracy as we make informed decisions on our path to the future.

The Akron Press Club is committed to a free press, especially during these difficult times. The Press Club will continue to provide a place for our community to have the civil discussions that are so necessary for us to understand where we are today and where we are going tomorrow.

Signed: Akron Press Club trustees.

The Akron Press Club was founded in 1971 to promote a free press and serve local journalists and public relations professionals. The group has a rich heritage of offering newsmakers a forum to discuss issues of the day at Press Club luncheons and speaking events that are open to the public. The club also funds scholarships for journalists and public relations students. Visit www.akronpressclub.org for membership information.