• Brileigh Boyce

Freedom of speech: International students reflect on expansion of freedoms in the U.S.

In America, the freedom of speech is often taken for granted. Jerusalem Tukura from Lagos, Nigeria, and Tu Tong from Vietnam, both Red & Green writers, spoke about freedom and protection under the First Amendment in the United States.

“It’s hard as a civilian to have a voice, because you have to be careful not to step on any toes of people who are in higher positions than you,” Tukura said about her home country.

In Lagos, Nigeria, there isn’t as much freedom as the United States. Americans are able to say anything they think or feel about society and cultures or even their own thoughts on the president. In Tukura’s native country, people aren’t able to do speak so freely.

“There’s a lot of corruption in politics (in Nigeria). A lot of the time, people’s voices can be bought; with money or material things,” Tukura said. “There is a lot of power with a position such as a president or vice president, senate and what have you. These people have the power to shape the conversation, so if someone says something about them that they don’t like, they can assassinate them. It’s that drastic.”

Tukura came to Minot State University in January of 2015. This is her second year as editor of the Red & Green and third year working at the newspaper.

“It’s nice to be able to have a voice and be heard. It’s very different. It’s a different mindset that I had to push myself into because every now and then I have something to say and question, ‘Is this appropriate? Can I actually say that without being reprimanded?’ Sometimes I do say things and expect negative feedback from someone in a higher position saying, ‘Why did you say that or why did you do that?’” Tukura explained.

Tong is a student in Communication 281 — a class in which students write pieces for the Red & Green. He is also found new freedom in speech since he came to Minot State University in August of 2016, and he understands the significant contrast of media freedoms in both countries.

"My grandpa is a war reporter, so he works for one side, and you only report the good things; even the war itself. He wrote a lot of articles, a lot of novels, but I don’t really enjoy his work. It’s always the good. You need to have the good and the bad,” Tong said.

Vietnam has freedom of speech, but not to the extent of America. Instead of having multiple political parties like the U.S., Vietnam has only one party — Communist Party. Its main objective, according to Tong, is to have a monopoly control that doesn’t allow any type of challenge to its power.

“Most of the biggest publisher stations are sponsored by the government, so information is controlled by the government. If you have a negative idea about the government, you absolutely cannot do it in the newspaper,” Tong said. “It’s very different for me to have freedom of speech here, so I don’t really understand how to be a journalist here in the U.S.A. For me not having the freedom of speech in my country, I now deeply feel the need for freedom of speech.”

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