What is Speech, Press, and Protest? Why are Speech, Press, and Protest Important?
Freedom of speech, the press, association, assembly, and petition: This set of guarantees, protected by the First Amendment, comprises what we refer to as freedom of expression. It is the foundation of a vibrant democracy, and without it, other fundamental rights, like the right to vote, would wither away.
The freedom of the press, protected by the First Amendment, is critical to a democracy in which the government is accountable to the people. A free media functions as a watchdog that can investigate and report on government wrongdoing. It is also a vibrant marketplace of ideas, a vehicle for ordinary citizens to express themselves and gain exposure to a wide range of information and opinions.
The right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy and at the core of the First Amendment. Unfortunately, law enforcement officials sometimes violate this right through means intended to thwart free public expression.
In recent history, challenges to the right to protest have come in many forms. In some cases, police crack down on demonstrations through mass arrests, illegal use of force, or curfews. Elsewhere, law enforcement limits expression by corralling protesters into so-called “free-speech zones.”