Newspaper theft denies students the right to truth

1 October 2019

Scribe staff

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Student news publications are the first way that we can learn how the first amendment works in a practical environment. We serve a functional purpose to help us learn how to behave as both a producer and an audience.

Our culture has either forgotten that lesson or never learned it, and that failure is apparent when our vice president hires a press secretary, Katie Waldman, who publicly suppressed the free press in 2012 when she was a member of student government at the University of Florida.

Her actions then were a deliberate attack on one of the core principles of our nation, and this deliberate attack on our rights were enough to qualify her for government office.

Student newspaper theft incidents have been recorded by the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) since 2000, and we saw a steady decline with spikes happening around every election. Peak reports on student newspaper theft peaked with 38 reported incidents in 2001, and the next highest year was 2012 with nearly 27, followed by 26 in 2005.

News is a way to educate the community and student population. The right to education is explicitly violated when newspaper theft occurs.

When someone does not agree with a certain statement, article, or report, it is not up to that person to make the decision for the larger population to rid the community of that statement, article, or report.

Reports of student newspaper theft has been on the increase since 2017, with eight incidents in 2018 being recorded in 2018 and the number has already been surpassed in 2019 according to the SLPC.

Student newspaper theft reports in 2019 have come from St. Edward’s University, Colorado State University, Baylor University Roger Williams University and the University of Soul Carolina, generally in response to controversial articles according to the SPLC.

Last semester during a Student Government Association election at Colorado State University, members of a candidate’s campaign team were witnessed destroying copies of a paper that reported on campaign misdeeds, according to FIRE, an organization that advocates on the behalf of student and staff rights at university and college campuses.

While immoral, their actions are not technically illegal in Colorado because the state legislature repealed a law in 2013 that made it a misdemeanor offense to take more than five copies of a free publication with the intent to censor it, according to FIRE.

Colorado repealed the law in the year following the second highest number of student newspaper thefts recorded in this century because a commission said that because only five incidents had been prosecuted under the law, despite examples that lead to the law’s creation according to the Denver Post.

One of the examples that followed the creation of the law was when a El Paso County Commissioner Jim Bensberg was caught on video removing copies of the Colorado Springs Independent from the El Paso County administration building shortly after they were delivered, according to the Denver Post.

The issue of the Colorado Springs Independent included a column that reported on Bensberg failing to recuse himself from a harassment charge vote brought against him by a county employee, despite being advised to according to the Colorado Springs Independent.

The removal of the Colorado law taught us one thing: those in power will censor us if given the chance, regardless of the values they are supposed to uphold, if it harms their position of power.

The Scribe has experienced minor incidents where our papers were found in trash cans and stuffed under stands in apparent attempts to censor us, but we have not experienced loss in recent years to the same scale that CSU experienced last semester.

Censorship must be fought because the censors have repeatedly shown that censorship only comes from preventing the free spread of ideas. Destroying a publication because of ideological disagreements harms everyone.