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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Tired of free speech? Here's the alternative

America's First Amendment is the envy of journalists around the world, including Great Britain, where the Official Secrets Act means journalists and whistleblowers risk prosecution for reporting what the government deems a threat to national security.

Want to live in Singapore? There, you had to have a police permit to speak in public.

Yet here in the land of free speech, a new poll shows that nearly half of Americans think that the constitutional amendment that protects most of what we say, write and create has gone too far.

Moreover, almost half said the media has been too aggressive in asking the government questions about the war on terrorism.

That's utterly discouraging.

We'd like to think the Bill of Rights has made America a vibrant marketplace of ideas and debate. Sure, some of the byproducts of free speech are outrageous talk shows. But would you prefer government-censored television, as they have in Pakistan, which fuzzes out anything deemed offensive or lewd?

Free speech is not just the domain of journalists. Look at it this way: Without freedom of speech, Hawai'i might still be stuck with the traffic camera program.