The armband that started the landmark Tinker case is on display at the Newseum in Washington, DC. The Tinker case is instrumental in establishing student freedom in a public school setting. Unfortunately, too many students take their rights for granted. Photo: Valerie Egger

This October, our staff had the chance to visit the Newseum in Washington, DC, just a few months before it closes its doors. With its closing came discussions of free speech and the importance of the press in this country.

Upon entry, we noticed a banner on the museum exterior with the hashtag #FreeAustinTice, “held captive for being a journalist since August 2012.” A former Marine, Tice went to Syria as a freelance journalist before his last year of law school. He never returned.

Tice wanted to report from inside Syria because of the lack of reliable sources—almost nothing being reported from on the ground—regarding the civil war there. He did, for several months, contributing helpful information that increased our awareness of the conflict there.

After he stopped tweeting and sending reports in August 2012, a brief video was released showing him bound and blindfolded, but no group has taken credit.

In 2018, the US State Department and FBI worked under the assumption that Tice is still alive and potentially held by Syrian government. This remains unconfirmed.

Sadly, Tice is not unique. As the Newseum showed us, journalists have been threatened and even killed for their work in uncovering the truth. But this is a true testament to human willpower: journalists are those willing to use their voice to uncover the truth, even at cost to themselves.

One of the startling displays in the Newseum was a map of free press in the world. The US, thankfully, was in the “green,” showing that we—like a few other nations—have the power to express the truth. Sadly, this power does not extend to much of the world.

Without a free press, there is no one to question the decisions of those in power. Without a free press, government is left unchecked, the oppressed have no voice, and change for the better is unlikely to occur.

We are fortunate to live in the nation with the most freedom of the press. We have access to all sorts of information. Too often, we see people our age—and even older—taking their freedoms for granted, distracted instead by Instagram or games and ignorant of the news. And we are always on our phones.

Our challenge to you is to spend some of your swiping time reading the news instead.

We are fortunate enough to live exposed to the free flow of news. It’s time we take advantage of that and help journalists, some of whom risk their lives, fulfill their purpose of informing the public.