Precious Freedom of the Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin is attacking freedom of the press, which has only existed there since the fall of the Soviet Union and has since been tentative at best. On March 4, Putin signed into law a measure that can jail journalists for up to 15 years for reporting that contradicts the government’s position. Two major independent news outlets–Ekho Moskvy radio and Dozhd TV–were forced off the air and off the internet for their reports on the Ukraine conflict. The chief editor of Dozhd fled the country with several others, fearing imprisonment. Freedom of press is a precious and rare commodity in this oppressive world. Only 13% of the world’s population has this freedom, according to a 2017 study by Freedom House. America was the first nation to give full freedom of the press. It was the promise of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1791 during George Washington’s first term. “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.” These freedoms had not existed in England. For example, in 1612, the year after the publication of the King James Bible, Baptist pastor Thomas Helwys published A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity, in which he made a simple plea for freedom of religion and supported his view with the Bible and good sense. Helwys sent a copy of the book to King James I with a handwritten note humbly and graciously asking the king to stop persecuting his subjects for their religious views. The king responded by putting the preacher in wretched Newgate prison, where he died two or three years later at about age 40. Helweys didn’t enjoy freedom of religion, freedom of press, or freedom of petition. In America, freedom of the press is under attack by social media giants. Whereas Putin is trying to control the narrative pertaining to the Ukraine, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., are trying to control the narrative pertaining to Trump, Covid, vaccine mandates, climate change, abortion, transsexuality, and whatever else they please. Censorship is spreading to “online banking, web hosting, and email delivery services.” The “mainstream” media who are complaining about Putin’s censorship but have not spoken out against social media censorship are like the early Protestants who wanted freedom for themselves from Rome but didn’t give freedom to others. (See “Protestant Persecution of the Baptists,”

(Friday Church News Notes, March 11, 2022,,, 866-295-4143)