“The only way to assert the right to publish is to publish,” once said Ben Bagdikian, a Washington Post editor who played a pivotal role in keeping the Pentagon Papers public, after The New York Times had been temporarily restrained from publishing the documents. Just a few days later, The Post was also taken to court by the government for doing exactly that: exercising freedom of the press. The modern-era attacks on the media come from all corners, including the White House, which calls mainstream news outlets “fake news” and their journalists “enemies of the people.” Yet the press is one of the stalwart avenues for the defense of Free Speech, and individuals from all political stripes take to op-ed pages to express their (sometimes incendiary) opinions.

Reflection Questions

  1. Are the media the last remaining effective check on undemocratic, even authoritarian, impulses in government?
  2. Should there be a federal “shield law,” like those that exist in several states, protecting the right of journalists not to reveal their sources?
  3. Would it be reasonable, in an era of “fake news” and widely disseminated conspiracy theories, to attempt to determine who is entitled to call himself or herself a journalist, and even to license them at the federal or state level?


The entries on the Free Speech Tracker can be classified into many themes, including the 12 listed below; most entries relate to several different themes. Click on a box to bring up a list of entries related to that theme, or select two or more to narrow the list down. You may also click or unclick the categories below this box to make the lists specific to Education, Civil Society, Government, or any combination of the three.



Tracker Entries