The180

Opinion: You should worry more about a free press, than about free speech

Writer Julie Anne Pattee wants Canadians to remember that a free press, and free speech, are two different rights. She says we need government to set limits on free speech, but not on a free press.
A member of the media at a demonstration in support of journalists detained in Egypt in 2014. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)
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A free press is more important than free speech. 

That's what Montreal writer Julie Anne Pattee wants Canadians to remember, and act on. 

She says we often lump the two rights together, when in fact they should be treated differently.

Our democracy works because the press is an institution that helps limit the power of those in authority. But advocates for free speech are fighting for the exact opposite — a complete lack of limits, or standards — the kind of freedom that tends to favour people who already have power and the public's attention.- Julie Anne Pattee

For all the people who cry out for the right to express any opinions they have, Pattee argues that we actually need government to limit free speech - in order to protect Canadians from hate and discrimination.

But when the government limits the press — for example, by monitoring reporters in Quebec — democracy is at risk. 

"Without a free press, we lose our ability to make informed decisions. This is the moment when we need to raise our voices, and write our politicians. Because without a free press, we'll be still be able to scream all we want, we'll just have no idea what were screaming about."

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