Press Freedom, Murder, and American Foreign Policy

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

“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 of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Consider how the stories below amplify the context of Khashoggi’s murder and American policy in the region.

Point / Counterpoint

Is it the responsibility of the United States and international institutions to enforce Free Speech abroad? The incidents above, along with the arguments below, illuminate some of the fundamental tensions related to Free Speech abroad and foreign policy-related Free Speech conflicts in the United States.

Discussion Questions

  1. Should the United States export the First Amendment abroad? Put another way, should the United States make respect for Free Speech and press freedom a precondition for foreign policy?
  2. Is exporting the First Amendment a noble foreign policy objective or an example of cultural imperialism? How might different political systems and expectations affect interpretations of Free Speech abroad?
  3. Taking the Minhaj case as an example, do U.S. companies have an obligation to align their conduct with the spirit of the First Amendment when conducting business abroad?
  4. To what extent has Free Speech or the First Amendment embedded itself as an American cultural value? Has the U.S. government been too quick to compromise when dealing with the brutal actions of a country that is an oil supplier and arms purchaser?
  5. The Department of Homeland Security planned to create a list of journalists and media influencers, allegedly for national security purposes. Many journalists expressed serious concern over how the list might be used to intimidate or manipulate the media. How do we balance a free press with national security? In what other situations might this trade-off arise?


Click on these themes below: Foreign Policy + Violence/Threats

Discuss: What patterns emerge? Does this confluence of stories with these filters tell us about Free Speech issues in the United States? Free Speech and foreign policy?

Tracker Entries