In this semester, I take a course concerning communication law so I get more and more touch in United States Constitution, especially the First Amendment —— the right we Chinese never shares.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
—— First Amendment
The First Amendment is established to protect people’s freedom and rights of expression, publication and press. In American history, there are lots of so-called heroes, revolutionists, omnipotent masters, tastemakers of information age, celebrities (like Edward R. Murrow, Julian Paul Assange and Larry Flynt), who are considered to be able to impact the international configuration. They are challenging the government, the whole country. Maybe it’s the First Amendment’s flaw. No matter what they have done, no matter whether it’s good, everyone is under the protection of the First Amendment. It’s their freedom and rights.
However, in China, we are not free enough to speak out our thoughts towards the government or the president, as well as the press. In China, there is SARFT (The State Administration of Radio Film and Television) —– maybe this organization is unknown in America. It has a strict censorship and censors content deemed politically and legally sensitive. Only approved by SARFT can the program be broadcast. Just an executive order can change or stop the program. Freedom of speech or press never exists.
Take the documentary The Insider, based on an indeed happened event, as an example, even though CBS refuses to broadcast “60 minutes”, New York Times and Wall Street Journal put the news in another form on the table. This is the advantage of press freedom. However, the competition between new and old press in America makes this freedom result from capitalization. The one who earns more up-to-date shocked news, the more competitive he is. So it seems like that news is used to earn money. On the other hand, the freedom of press or the truth of information is also likely to be threatened by capitalists and affected by newspaper offices and TV stations. All will return to profits. In a word, the American democratic system is a see-saw platform which has not yet perfectly achieved a balance among different profits. Freedom of press not only needs protection from a mechanism and a system, but also needs individual consciousness. Such a kind of consciousness and determination comes from not letting the power above the law and abiding by professional ethics and reflection on oneself and what one has done.