From 1961 to 1989, Berlin was split in two, divided by the Berlin Wall. One side belonged to the Allied Forces, while the other was under the strict rule of communist Russia. These two sides were very different in their systems of government, which directly affected their peoples’ freedoms. Russia had a harsh, oppressive government where freedom to speak out against the government was severely suppressed. Where you could travel, who you could talk to, and even what you could say all had rules that all people east of the Iron Curtain were expected to follow. On the west side of the Wall, freedom was a lot more welcome. People could do so many things that the public could not do on the other side.

In the Newseum, a museum of news located in Washington DC, they have a part of the Berlin Wall, explaining about the freedoms and the rights people had in the West relative to the East. They also had a concrete guard tower, tall and dark, from which Russian troops would fire on communist citizens who tried to cross the wall and escape.

Why did they want to escape? It was because of their freedoms. People would go to great lengths and take big risks to escape the rough conditions and restrictions in Soviet Russia. The number of people that crossed from East to West was much greater than that of West to East.

One of the short films they put on described how a woman in the West heard the cry of a person in the East. “Help, help, help,” she heard, a sound of despair and suffering of the gloomy life on the other side. I was able to touch a piece of the Wall, put on display for touching. I put my hand against it on the side marked West and tried to imagine the sound of suffering as people’s rights were locked up. It seemed as though the wall radiated all those emotions, glimpses of life on the other side, and how I felt lucky to be where I was.

The Newseum is often described as a Temple to the First Amendment, a museum dedicated to news and people’s freedoms in the USA, especially those of speech and of the press. It also explains about the importance of news and journalism.

“THE FREE PRESS IS A CORNERSTONE OF DEMOCRACY

People have a need to know. Journalists have a right to tell. Finding the facts can be difficult. Reporting the story can be dangerous. Freedom includes the right to be outrageous. Responsibility includes the duty to be fair. News is history in the making. Journalists provide the first draft of History.

A FREE PRESS, AT ITS BEST, REVEALS THE TRUTH.”

-Newseum

On September 11th, 2001, the twin trade towers fell in a huge catastrophe of debris and dust. But how do we know so much about it? How do we have so much footage? We have our reporters and journalists to thank for that. Even with all the loss and grief that surrounded the event, people pushed through to bring the story to the public. One story of a reporter described how he stood there for as long as he could, paralyzed, as he held his camera up as the second tower fell. Then, after he had recorded for as long as he could, he just ran for his life.

There were reporters who risked their lives to bring us detailed stories and videos of the event. One woman stood at the base of the first tower, providing a key view to what happened. Though sadly, she was crushed by the falling debris. They found her camera and released that video to the public.

We would only know half of what we know about 9/11 if it weren’t for the brave reporters and journalists who brought truth to the world in light of what had happened.

The First Amendment is essential to what makes the USA the USA, giving the people of America the freedom of religion, of speech, of the press, of assembly, and of petition. Without freedom of religion, people would feel much more uncomfortable expressing themselves as a part of a certain religion. Without freedom of speech, people would not be able to communicate and share ideas and perspectives the way they do today. Without freedom of the press, our news would not be releasing enough stories or enough information to the public, and the government might even change the stories a little. Without freedom of assembly, people wouldn’t be able to come together to protest and express the change they want, or get together to collaborate on new thoughts. And without freedom of petition, nothing would change for the better, because the government wouldn’t know what ideas the public had in their best interests.

The Newseum also did a wonderful job at explaining the importance of real news. After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, people all over the USA were coming up with their own suspicions of who started the bombing. For example, a newspaper cover page was published with two random guys that had nothing to do with the bombing, naming them as criminal suspects. Eventually, the FBI found the two real culprits, though tried in the future to be more careful about what information they released and at what time. I am very grateful that I live in a country that has a very free press, for there are many nations out there that are not so lucky.

I am also very thankful for the news reporters and journalists that recorded information about the Iron Curtain, 9/11, and many other earth-shaking world stories. We would not know what we know today without you.

Below: Touching Berlin Wall

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Below: Berlin Wall and Guard Tower

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Below: 9/11 wreckage from top of trade tower and news headlines

Below: Pick-up truck from Yugoslavia full of bullet holes used to defend reporters

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