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Protecting Our Local Free Press

  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Sep. 13, 2022 - 8:59 PM

Protecting Our Local Free Press

The Newnan Times-Herald

One of the great things about living in Newnan is the local newspaper.

It has been published since 1865 and remains a way of sharing events and decisions that impact all of us, regardless of our political stance.

While all local newspapers have been forced to adjust to relentless competition and attacks from unscrupulous hedge funds, another threat has materialized to the very purpose of a free press.

In their recent book, “How Democracies Die,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt write about the way that autocrats seek to destroy the press by eliminating any form of criticism of the ruling party.

In practice, this happens gradually as it has in Russia and Hungary. In the early stages of this change, the press is called “the enemy of the people.” Laws are passed to make any criticism punishable by fines and imprisonment.

What does this have to do with Newnan?

During our last local election for school board members, the four people that ran against our existing board announced that they would not participate in the debate that was arranged to help voters decide on who was best to represent Coweta County.

Instead, they followed the lead of the National Republican party by declaring that the process was biased and rigged. Rather than having reporters penetrate difficult topics, the participants were fed “softball questions” that left important topics untouched. Opposition candidates were not allowed to attend.

Today we see extremist politicians all over the country, holding events where they exclude members of the media that they don’t like. What’s more, they are holding up Hungarian leader Viktor Orban as a model for a future America. Instead of protecting free speech, Orban has seized ownership of the media in order to destroy dissent. Is this what our founding fathers had in mind?

Our former president idolizes Vladimir Putin, saying what a genius he is by describing Ukrainians as “Nazis” and saying that the Russians invaded Ukraine to keep the peace!

Should we really admire a leader that is a master of disinformation? It’s no accident that the Russian people are confused about the truth since Russian media is completely controlled by Mr. Putin.

The Coweta County Democratic Party is going in a different direction. We believe in the rule of law, and no demagogue should be allowed to ignore the constitution in favor of his own personal power.

We believe in a system of checks and balances where our local press plays a critical role in holding truth to power.

This starts with protecting our local newspaper and the independence of journalists and holding politicians accountable when they abuse our values and norms.

David Klepinger