Magazine article Editor & Publisher

President of Poland Praises a Free Press

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

President of Poland Praises a Free Press

Article excerpt

I AM ADDRESSING you about a situation which is very special to me for two reasons. It was in this country that over 200 years ago freedom of speech and press was included in the Constitution.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press became fundamental laws, conditions to individual freedom and the basis of functioning democracy. Individual rights were born -- constitutional norms -- which clearly delineated the boundaries between democracy and forms of despotism.

America is the crib of the free press and of free speech.

The second reason is more personal. Frankly speaking, it is more Polish. My country truly gained its independence four years ago. For over half a century, we had lived without freedom, without free press, without free speech and without free public opinion.

Freedom is the inherent right of a human being. Freedom of speech cannot be suppressed. If it is removed from public life, it moves underground. This is what happened in Poland.

In our fight against communism, the underground press played a tremendous role. However, it was not able, for obvious reasons, to fulfill the social need. It could not fulfill the need for objective information, to satisfy the hunger for the truth. In this situation, free media from beyond the Iron Curtain was of great help to us.

Especially radio, which brought in information prohibited in our country. It raised our spirits, strengthened faith and hope.

It created a feeling of togetherness and international solidarity of free people.

You have also been a part of my success. This free media brought the Polish revolution closer to the rest of the world. It has shown the others our difficult but victorious path. You have uncovered the truth, concealed from the Polish nation. I would like to thank you for this.

Poland is changing. Four years ago, we started the task of implementing difficult reforms. We are building the new economic and political order. This is not an easy process. We have entered the new reality carrying old habits, but we have entered it with a mentality burdened by the old way of thinking. It is our greatest weakness and biggest obstacle in this task. Social awareness does not change from day to day- It demands patience and persistence. However, most of all it demands time.

It is necessary in order to learn how to live responsibly, independently and on one's own account, in order not to fear freedom and not to escape from it.

Here I perceive the great role of the media and of the sources of mass communication. Their significance stems from much more than just relaying information. Media shape views and behavior. They affect moods and popularity of politicians. They can turn an unknown person into a famous one, but they can also deprive a respectable person of his good name.

Democracy has given the media freedom. It has created possibilities not realized before, but it has also brought new dangers. Information is like a knife. In the hand of a surgeon, it can save a life. In the hand of a criminal, it can end a life.

That is why it is important to create a new order of information, which will not harm or mislead anyone.

Questions arise: What is the meaning of freedom and independence to the media? What should they be free from? …

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