.Free speech, independent press protect expression rights for all

Reporter Josué Monroy set out to cover a pro-Israel march last week and fairly present the views of the participants. We’ve also covered three pro-Palestinian demonstrations, and this was the first coverage that contained views from Israel’s supporters.

Josué presented a first-hand account of how divisions in the Middle East play out in our community. Our mission as journalists is not to select and quote views with which we agree. Rather, we must unflinchingly ask questions and share answers—even if we disagree with or are horrified by the thoughts expressed. 

That is the nature of free expression. A quote is not an endorsement. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Since publishing comments from several named individuals from the march on the Good Times website, we have heard from people who feel that we “amplified” the remarks, should not have published them, that we should apologize and issue statements on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 

The quotes in question were not printed, appeared on our site for 48 hours and were viewed by less than 1000 people. They were posted on Saturday and removed midday Monday. We listened to the community and were also asked by the individual quoted to retract the statement.

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After the removal, two masked individuals showed up at Good Times’ office and anonymously posted flyers. They claim we support genocide. The leaflets personalize and give further distribution to the very words and ideas our critics contend we promoted. They publicly single out Monroy, who was doing his job as a journalist: reporting on local events, including quotes from the people there.

One group subsequently made threats and issued demands that we make political statements on the future of Israel in Palestine.

That’s not our job. We are here as independent journalists to cover local issues and dig deep into the things that make Santa Cruz tick. 

We oppose Islamophobia, antisemitism and hate speech; and, we also believe that drawing attention to these issues serves the public interest. Activists on the Palestine issue should understand that the same protections afforded their critics protects their own free speech and assembly rights. 

We will continue to do that and we will continue to elicit and print comments from the community, which is fundamental to our role as the Santa Cruz County’s principal locally-owned newspaper. In these times of war and misinformation, a free and independent press is more important than ever.

At a time when the journalistic community should stand together for free expression and the safety of journalists, we are also deeply disappointed to see competitors exploit this situation. They have given advance publicity to anonymous persons who will be engaging in an aggressive pressure campaign this week on our property.

The chilling effect of silencing opposing views through intimidation should concern all of us who value the free exchange of ideas in an open society.

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