Washington (BWA)--The Baptist World Alliance supports press freedom. This is why it regards World Press Freedom Day, May 3, as a worthy observance.
At the heart of press freedom is freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to hold opinions and receive and impart ideas and information without government interference, as well as freedom from interference with correspondence and other means of communication. These are some of the entrenched fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitutions of a number of democracies around the world.
The Jewish prophetic tradition demonstrates how such rights were central to the prophetic call. "There is a long tradition of freedom of expression by the prophets speaking out against wrongdoing of the leadership of the people, and against the exploitation of the poor" (Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media, 2006).
In a society where the king's word was absolute and his actions unquestioned, the prophet was the one person who publicly called the king to account, as Nathan did with David (2 Samuel 12). It was a right for which Israel's prophets sometimes paid a heavy price, as in the case of Jeremiah whose first book of prophecy was burned by the king (Jer. 36), and who was imprisoned for treason (Jer. 37).
The Christian Gospel is an open presentation. It was never designed to be declared in secret. "Public communication is essential to Christianity" (Communication as a Mission and Ministry of the Church, 2010).We hold the view that the freedom to proclaim the Christian message characterizes the freedom that societies ought to share, giving space for the expression of all voices, dissenting ones included.
The marketplace of ideas deserves to be free, with necessary safeguards to protect minors and the vulnerable against manipulative forces that exploit others for self-serving interests. As Baptists, we hold that the level of freedom we desire for ourselves - that we actively advocate - should be for others as well. Baptists ought not to demand a freedom for themselves that they are not willing to extend to others.
Central to the practice of press freedom is access - access to information as well as the means to transmit and receive information. The dominance or control of information flow by one or by the few is thus to be prevented whether it be government or commercial interests; or political, ethnic, racial, religious or other majorities or dominant groups.
Baptists ought to be at the forefront in the practice of, and the advocacy for, press freedom, including calling media interests to account where they violate the very freedoms that they are sworn to uphold, or where media standards have become lax.