Written 235 years ago – and still as true as ever

Liberty Square - Freedom of the press plaque
Liberty Square - Freedom of the press plaque
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My thanks to my colleague Graeme Patfield, who wrote this column while I took a holiday in America.

I returned from the vacation (as they call it over there) with an empty wallet, a debilitating dose of jetlag, a host of happy memories and hundreds of pictures.

One is printed above. I took it in Liberty Square, Savannah.

Several plaques are embedded in the ground there, each with a testament to freedom.

You won’t perhaps be surprised that my eye was particularly caught by the thoughts of the 18th century American patriot George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights.

Article XII of that declaration stated: ‘The freedom of the Press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.’

It’s as true today as it was when it was penned 235 years ago.

We are blessed in Britain to live in a democracy, but all too often as journalists we have to stand up against individuals and organisations in the public sector who would seek to thwart the free flow of information. We shall continue to do that whenever necessary because it is vital to our way of life that newspapers can report fact and comment freely.

I like to think that George Mason would be pleased that spirit remains in local papers such as The News.

Talking of America, it was the great US writer Mark Twain who said: ‘Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.’ With that in mind, apologies to Mr Brian Wells, who wishes us to make clear that he is very much alive. I’m sorry that we incorrectly described Mr Wells’ former wife Margaret as a widow in a story published on October 15.