Watergate 40th Anniversary an Example of the Importance of Press Freedom

Watergate's 40th anniversary will be marked Sunday June 17, 2012 and is being remembered as a victory for democracy in the United States, and as an example of the importance of press freedom. The bungled break-in at Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington D.C. eventually led to President Richard Nixon's resignation, and changed the political landscape of America forever.

In the early morning hours of June 17, 1972 five men working for President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign were arrested as they attempted to break in to Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate complex.

The Washington Post's Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who were covering the story, found that the incident was just a small part of a secret initiative devised by the President Nixon re-election campaign to undermine his political opponents.

Woodward has said, "We named people in specific acts of participation in a criminal conspiracy essentially to destroy the free electoral system we have in this country to spy and sabotage on the Democrats."

Investigations into the reports discovered a huge cover-up by the Nixon campaign and the White House, which seemed to lead to President Nixon himself. Tapes of Nixon's conversations in the White House were revealed and they eventually helped to prove Nixon's involvement.

President Nixon eventually announced his resignation in August 1974. "I have never been a quitter," said Nixon. "To leave office before my term is completely is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as president I must put the interests of America first."

In the aftermath Vice President Gerald Ford was sworn in to office, and took over at the White House after Nixon's departure. Ford said, "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here, the people rule."

Today, the Watergate scandal is still remembered as a victory for democracy in America, and is seen as a shining example of why the freedom of the press is such an important part of maintaining a democratic society and halting abuses of power.