The value of information

How important is information to you? We receive knowledge from so many sources today, we can’t count them all. We all need facts to conduct our lives, reliable information. We depend on this.

During the past few days, our newspapers and television news programs have reminded us that June 6, 2019, is the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy, France, which turned the tide of World War II. I trust that information. I believe it. No one would doubt the effect of that massive effort by the combined forces of several allied nations in 1944 that changed the course of history.

Another important anniversary arrived last week on the other side of the world. Thirty years ago, on June 4, 1989, government forces broke up a gathering of protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. After weeks of demonstrations, Chinese troops entered the square in tanks and fired on civilians, killing hundreds, possibly thousands. Estimates vary.

Television showed the world the unforgettable image of a single young man courageously confronting a line of government tanks.

Today, an entire generation of school children in China is puzzled when they hear adults speak in hushed tones about the 1989 events at Tiananmen Square. Any mention of it is forbidden. You won’t find it in any textbooks.

We in America know about it because we have a free press. So far.

On Wednesday, Americans learned that a financial information company partly owned by Thomson Reuters, under pressure from the Chinese government, deleted all mentions of the 1989 events at Tiananmen Square from its reports. The Chinese government has effectively silenced any mention of these events for 30 years and has kept an entire generation of its people in ignorance.

How important is this to you and me?

Thomas Jefferson thought a lot about the importance of a free press and the forces that would control it. Let’s ponder two of his more memorable comments together:

“No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to 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.”

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”



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