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The York Dispatch is squarely grounded in a free press that exercises its right to free speech, without fear of governmental retribution.

Though sometimes our jounalists suffer the informal consequences of being the watchdogs for the community — being excluded from some interaction with those in power, or being criticized for their commitment to shed sunlight on issues that officials would prefer stay quiet — they wear their responsibility as badges of honor.

This week, we celebrate Freedom of Speech week and, in conjunction with the Newspaper Association of America, will participate in the conversation about the importance of freedom of speech to a free democratic society.

Historically, even before the advent of the printing press, in religious and other powerful circles, those who dissented were dealt with — often violently.

Following the advent of the printing press and radio, freedom of speech was often the first thing to be destroyed upon the arrival to power of an oppressive regime, such as the Nazi Party during World War II.

John Stuart Mill's 1859 work "On Liberty" was a strong defense of the right to freedom of speech. It set the tone for the individualistic philosophical thinking that guides Americans today.

Now, with the pervasiveness of the Internet, we are continuously challenged to defend free speech while protecting our citizens from harm. It means defending our Constitution and our people, at whatever cost.

It isn't easy, or free. But it will forever be worth the price we must pay.

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