Mid-Missourians gather to rally for a free press

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COLUMBIA — In response to recent debate surrounding the veracity of news, community members are banding together to stand up for journalists on Saturday with a Rally for a Free Press.

Event organizer Jacob Davis-Hansson said he hoped to connect with other community members that care about the issue of a free press through the event.

“A free press is a social institution, it's part of our democracy and it’s uniquely positioned to ask hard questions to powerful individuals, to governments to corporations, to organizations that hold power and to hold them accountable and to be this housekeeping function for democracy,” Davis-Hansson said. “I do think that it’s under attack financially and politically. I think that we as a community need to stand up for it.”

Participants at the event emphasized the importance of a free press. 

"I can't think of anything that I could do that's more important on behalf of my country than to stand up and defend professional journalists who I have worked with through my life and who I am grateful to and admire," participant Chip Cooper said. 

Another participant said no matter who is in power, citizens need to know what the government is doing. 

"I'm inspired because we need to fight for the freedom of the press, it is the fourth estate and it's part of what makes a democracy run," participant Melissa Alpers-Springer said.

Speakers at the event included a journalism student and a law student from the University of Missouri as well as law professor Richard Reuben.

The speakers discussed what a free press means, why it matters and what people can do to support it.

The rally was non-partisan, and event organizers invited people to come independent of their political affiliation to rally for a free and independent press.

Event organizer Kari Chesney said everyone should be in support of a free press.

“I think that the Rally for a Free Press is very important to make it nonpartisan because we do have a climate right now of people being divided, and this issue is important for all Americans just in the sense that everyone should want transparency in their government,” Chesney said. “And they should want the actions and the information coming from their government to be available to all Americans, and so it’s not just a left or right issue, this is important for everyone.”

The event was scheduled from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Courthouse Plaza in downtown Columbia.

The three Columbia residents that privately organized the rally hope to hold upcoming quarterly meetings featuring new speakers that community members can attend.

Organizers are not funded or controlled by a political organization, and the event does not endorse any candidates or political parties.