Yesterday, I was talking to a friend from home online, and at some point the disputed Iranian election came up. Wanting to keep up with current world news and be an informed, intelligent person, I’ve naturally been keeping up with the news. I feel it is also particularly relevant since I am in an Arab-Muslim “democratic” country at the moment. I mentioned the recent banning of Facebook and Twitter due to the protests, and also the ban of all social networking sites in China on the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. My friend asked, “They can do that?” I explained that yes, the government controls the Internet and can block certain sites. Even the Department of Defense monitors the Internet in the US. Obviously we don’t block things like Facebook because it’s a blatant violation of the 1st Amendment, but they can block things like child pornography sites, for obvious reasons.

I did some research on Internet censorship, since I know a lot of countries do it. I know Youtube is blocked here, although there are ways to view it through other sites and proxies that people can connect to as well. Facebook was even blocked for a month last summer. Reporters Without Border have ranked countries for their censorship, or lack thereof. The countries that have the most are called “black hole countries.” Guess where I am?

This idea of censorship brought me back to my days as Editor in Chief of my school newspaper, The Wheaton Wire (way back when, all 1 month ago). All the controversies and “How dare you print that!” statements just make me all the more angry living here now. How dare I print that? It’s called freedom of press, that’s how! “Just because you have the right to exercise freedom of the press doesn’t mean you should.” No joke, multiple people have said that to me. What they really mean to say is, “Just because you have freedom of press, you shouldn’t use it if I don’t agree with you or if you’re going to offend me.” I’m sorry, how about you tell me what I should do with my newspaper. Oh, who’s censoring now?

Being offended is a part of life. You have to be offended to see the injustice in the world. You have to have people disagree with you in order to have something to fight for. I wouldn’t need to be a feminist if there was 100% gender equality in the world, because what goal would I need to achieve?

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. How true. Maybe the kids at Wheaton will realize how precious freedom of expression is once they live in a country where they don’t have it. And yea sure, just because you have the right to call your boss a horrible old goat doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. You have to censor yourself based on how you want to live your life, but no one else has the right to tell you how to censor yourself, at least in the US and other free countries. Having full access to news and information is vital for a society to thrive. The information will get out somehow; it just depends on how much of a fight people will have to put up to get it out there.

To end on a bit of an ironic note: Through my research on freedom of speech and expression, I found that the early Islamic leaders were the ones who first declared such freedoms, and that many believe freedom of expression is founded on Islamic custom.