Newspaper theft is threat to democracy

staff

When the Collegian was stolen from around campus on the morning of Wed., Feb. 26, it may have seemed a harmless college prank to many. Indeed, the newspapers were found the next day and returned to their rightful places.

So it was all just in fun, right?

Wrong.

Any time the flow of information is disrupted in this country for any reason, the process and the progress of democracy (which depends on the free flow of information) is disrupted.

To be sure, nothing in the Collegian that week was of national importance. There were no stories that would have proven Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or freed a criminal on death row.

But when the newspapers were stolen, people were not given access to information on the SDSU Students’ Association elections, SDSU’s search for a conference in Division I, the progress of SDSU’s sports teams and our weekly events calendar, which helps many a student plan their nights out. The halt of this flow of information may have only been a minor inconvenience for some, but if it goes unpunished, it establishes a dangerous precedent.

If the people who stole the Collegian are not apprehended or if this is not treated as the serious crime it is, the free press faces a setback. It is a small setback, to be sure, but this pebble could begin to roll down a steep hill, gathering much mud on the way until it becomes a boulder.

Imagine, someday, that The New York Times or The Washington Post runs another story which uncovers a Watergate to bring down a presidency. Now imagine that every copy of that newspaper is stolen and the public never gets word of that information.

By treating the theft of the Collegian as a joke or a prank, we say by association that the theft of The Washington Post right before it published the articles that led to the Watergate hearings could have been justified.

The Founding Fathers gave the press freedom to print what it wanted (for the most part). They gave it this freedom so the press would keep an eye on the government and not allow it to overstep its boundaries. For over 200 years, the press has done just that.

But if the press is impeded in any way, that freedom may come to a stop.

Though the theft of the Collegian was likely meant as a harmless prank, it is a serious crime and those who perpetrated that crime should be brought to justice.

So if you know anything, please, don’t be silent.

Democracy could be at stake someday.

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