Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Miami Herald, January 27, 1983, Editorial: "Bombs vs. Democracy"

Ordinarily, this newspaper would not dignify a threat from terrorists by stooping to respond. And that principle will govern in this instance, in which The Miami Herald has been threatened with attack. The threat came in a two-page, typewritten note signed by "Omar, chief of commandos, Omega 7."

The Herald identified this "Omar" as Eduardo Arocena of Miami in a Jan. 16 story. Mr. Arocena is a fugitive, identified by the FBI as the leader of Omega 7, a group of anti-Castro exiles that claims responsibility for more than 30 bombings and two assassinations in the past eight years.

This newspaper will not honor such terrorists by debating them any more than it will be intimidated by threats from anyone. What must not be permitted to pass without rebuttal, however, is the perverse and twisted reasoning employed by this "Omar" who signed the two-page threat.

In part, the threat read as follows: "For our part, we feel offended that The Herald would publish the information about Omega 7, for we consider it a cave of Communists who serve Russia, just like The New York Times and The Washington Post, since they concentrate their efforts on attacking and destroying democracy so this great country will fall into the arms of international communism...."

This passage demands rebuttal because, though its language is extreme, its sentiment is sadly common. Many well-intentioned people misunderstand the role that this nation's independent press necessarily plays in securing American democracy. Many feel that when newspapers criticize the Government and the powerful, they act destructively. This is a terrible misconception.

A vigilant, critical press is essential to the American way of life. It always has been so. The Founding Fathers deliberately made freedom of the press one of the four primary freedoms guaranteed to American citizens as birthright. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution empowers the press with freedom precisely because the nation's founders intended the press to be an ever-watchful critic and check upon the power of Government.

Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, third U.S. President, and perhaps the New World's first and foremost political genius, put it thus: "No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying...that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first objective should therefore be, to leave open to him all avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is therefore the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions."

America's newspapers, The Miami Herald proud among them, are bulwarks of American democracy. It is those who would silence them, such as Omega 7's Omar, who serve America's enemies.

Copyright (c) 1983 The Miami Herald