CFOG, others partnering in Free Speech project

CFOG, the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, the Connecticut Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut are joining together to organize an ongoing project to educate young people of the importance about Free Speech in a democratic society.

The project was born after CFOG’s executive committee concluded that such a project was warranted after highly publicized incidents on some of America’s leading college campuses. The incidents involved important issues of racial and gender bias on college campuses and in society as a whole. During some of these incidents and campus discussions, media coverage was denied and contrarian voices silenced.

CFOG and its partners are planning to initiate the project this year with a program modeled after the Fred Friendly Seminars on Media and Society that were broadcast on PBS during the 1980s. CFOG has used this approach to good effect in several of its earlier programs.

The seminar will bring together a panel representing virtually every perspective on the issue of free speech and its limitations in the context of recent controversies that took place on college campuses. The participants will be assigned roles in an evolving hypothetical situation.

By introducing twists and turns in the hypothetical story line, the moderator will try to make the panelists take a hard look at their own beliefs and listen to the points of view of those who disagree. As panelists wrestle with the hypothetical, the drama created will help the audience – in this case comprised mainly of high-school and college-age students – better understand how public policy issues play themselves out in daily life and the consequences that may flow when freedoms of speech and press are curtailed.