First there is this from The History Channel website:
Writer Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, is imprisoned in the Bastille on this day in 1717.
The outspoken writer was born to middle-class parents, attended college in Paris, and began to study law. However, he quit law to become a playwright and made a name for himself with classical tragedies. Critics embraced his epic poem, La Henriade, but its satirical attack on politics and religion infuriated the government, and Voltaire was arrested in 1717. He spent nearly a year in the Bastille.
Voltaire’s time in prison failed to dry up his satirical pen. In 1726, he was forced to flee to England. He returned several years later and continued to write plays. In 1734, his Lettres Philosophiques criticized established religions and political institutions, and he was forced to flee again. He retreated to the region of Champagne, where he lived with his mistress and patroness, Madame du Chatelet. In 1750, he moved to Berlin on the invitation of Frederick II of Prussia and later settled in Switzerland, where he wrote his best-known work, Candide. He died in Paris in 1778, having returned to supervise the production of one of his plays.
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And there is this personal postscript:
I'm sure there is more to the story than is hinted at in this brief article (i.e., the reasons for Voltaire's imprisonment), and I will be taking some time to further research the incident, but taking the story at face value for the moment, I am not surprised that writers in the past could be (should be?) imprisoned for running afoul of governments.
However, I begin to wonder if such an event -- the imprisonment of writers (including journalists and others) because of their offense(s) against government/society -- would either be possible or desirable in our 21st century world. There is an easy knee-jerk answer many people might throw out there, especially since we in the United States have a "freedom of speech" obsession, but I think the really useful and accurate answers are more nuanced and complicated. After all, for one example, in this era of WikiLeaks, "fake-news," public utterances, and other indiscretions, some people including writers, so-called print and media "journalists," editors of Internet sites," politicians, public figures, and others can (and do) cause serious damage to government/society.
Note: I am very sensitive to this issue, especially since a portion of my U.S. Navy career involved the protection of highly classified materials, equipment, and information. If I had failed to perform my duties or if I had run afoul of government rules and regulations, I could not have claimed immunity from prosecution because of accident, ignorance, good intentions, patriotism, or "freedom of speech" concepts, and I would have been imprisoned for a long time.
So, I ask you to think about this issue, and I invite you to respond to this provocative question: Do we now have any writers (or others) who ought to be imprisoned?