Contrasting The U.S. And Nepal

Commentary by CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer, who has hosted Face The Nation for more than a decade.

This summer marks some important anniversaries for the First Amendment that should not go un-remarked.

It was thirty years ago this week, that the Supreme Court told the Nixon Administration it could not block The New York Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers.

To rule otherwise, the court said, would give the government the ability to block or at least delay publication of anything it found offensive or even unflattering.

A month later, Harley Staggers, the Democratic chairman of a House committee ordered CBS News to turn over film clips it had not used in a documentary called the "Selling of the Pentagon." Staggers said that was the only way he could determine if the documentary had been fairly edited.

Frank Stanton, the president of CBS, said he would go to jail before he would comply with Staggers' subpoenas and allow the government to go rooting around in reporters' desks.

The House of Representatives agreed, turned on one of its most senior chairmen, and backed Stanton.

I thought of this as I was reading how one of the first actions the government of Nepal may take in the wake of the brutal murders of its royal family is to court-marshal a witness to the shooting who gave an unauthorized account of how it happened.

In America, such shenanigans couldn't happen, thanks in part to the courage of Frank Stanton and Arthur Sultzberger, the Times publisher in the Pentagon Papers era.

My great teacher Eric Sevareid once told me, "always remember, freedom of speech is the one freedom we need to defend all the others."

That's really all I need to know about it.


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