Opinion Editorial: What price freedom?

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Laura Rearwin Ward, publisher

Freedom of speech is the gateway to the big three — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

The Ukrainian people know this as dearly as Americans do. Our hearts are breaking for the 44 million Ukrainians fighting for a free country as their courage and resilience are put to the ultimate test.

Ukrainian bravery in this crisis and their steadfast belief in maintaining their liberty are inspiring people around the world. Their valiant actions have many people in Ojai asking themselves the big questions.

Before looming economic concerns overtake our moment to self reflect, we consider our own ideological attachments to country, family, freedom and peace. What are the freedoms worth fighting for, and how can we avoid paying the last full measure? In front of us now: What are we willing to give up so that others may have freedom? What can we do now to keep freedom ringing in our own country?

Strangely, subscriptions to Ojai’s 131-year-old free-press have not even doubled in the last two weeks. We’ve heard that “freedom is not free,” but what are we willing to pay?

Will voting and subscribing to a local and national newspaper be enough? Is any price too high?

The press is called the Fourth Estate and is essential to a free country. When the narrative is controlled or falsified, reality is warped. 

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin understands this fact, as all authoritarian leaders do. One of Putin’s first targets in the invasion of Ukraine was a news station in Kyiv. In Russia, his already-controlled media were further silenced when the last local independent news stations closed due to the risk of imprisonment. Independent press and social media feeds were banned and the New York Times withdrew rather than face 15-year prison sentences. To date, more than 3,000 Russian citizens have been arrested for protesting the war as Russians are told there is no war, and their soldiers commit war crimes every day. Should citizens be held accountable for what they don’t know?

When and how does authoritarian-creep happen? It happens city by city, county by county and state by state. The Ojai Valley News’ position is that every closure to governmental transparency is dangerous. Silence and secrecy are death to democracy. 

Some issues our OVN team has gone to the mat over in the last three years include: Superior Court access, local public meeting access, autopsy access and death information, public health information, Brown Act meeting violations, secret votes, intentional burying of public information, and misinformation. 

Corruption happens behind closed doors and it is the job of the Ojai Valley News to report for the people and drag information into the light. We keep you informed about your community. The more the public is invested in its free press, the more watchdog power the people have.

In these coming months, as wages are up and the costs of housing, gasoline and goods soar, the very existence of a printed Ojai Valley News may be in question due to growing costs. Ask yourself now rather than then: What is the free press worth to us? Now is the time to take action to preserve this right.

Take action — support local journalism by helping the Ojai Valley News increase its readership. Many subscribers make a healthy local newspaper.

Subscribe today to the print and/or online editions of the Ojai Valley News at by calling 805-646-1476.


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