October 26, 2018
The First Amendment to the US Constitution clearly states: “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.”
As described above, those were the words of the founders. In making free speech a bedrock of liberty and a free society, they feared a day that a leader of the nation or those in custody of public trust, would engage in the abuse of authority by questioning the rights of people to organize or protest, in opposition to the administration of a state and its leadership.
Known as a model for protection of free press, the US is now scrambling to defend its values and respect for free expression in a world, where the media faces daily attacks for fact checking a President and for exercising a constitutionally given right to inform the public. It is incontrovertible that the founders wanted everyone to criticize the President. Without the press acting as a check on the authority, we would all be misinformed. There’d be abuse of power and possibly a state of anarchy.
It is fair to say the Founders did not want a President of the United States to be King George or else, he would have more than the executive power vested in the President under Article II of the US Constitution. Since the election of 2016, we saw constant attacks on the media from the pulpit of power, while the leadership consistently instigates violence against free press. Now, the president’s hatred for the media and his war on free speech is beginning to bear fruit.
The state assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, revealed how ruthless a leader could be to silence one who disagrees with his authority. In the US, there is a rise in attacks on the media because the perpetrators think they can do so as they feel encouraged by the President.
As at the time of writing, 12 suspicious packages containing pipe bombs were mailed to those who dare express opposition to the President. Two former Presidents, some members of Congress, two former members of the intelligence community, a former Attorney General, a private citizen and CNN have deadly packages sent to their offices and a residence in one case. The commonality is that all recipients are critics of the President.
While the President is not responsible or have any involvement in the attempted bombings, his rhetoric and war on the media no doubt encouraged the Trump supporter who felt he owed the President a duty to silence his critics.
There is a looming danger when a private citizen feels the need to engage in acts of murder to suppress opposition to the leader or party he supports. Worse is when the leader and members of his party fail in their duties to respect rights of the media to act as a check on the administration. In such a chaotic situation, the electorates reserve the rights to change the balance of power through their votes.
Adeyemi Oshunrinade is an expert in general law, foreign relations and the United Nations. He is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment,’ ‘Criminal Law-Homicide’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available on Amazon. Follow on Twitter @san0670.