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Freedom Of The Press

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Autor:  anton  06 May 2011
Tags:  Freedom
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Freedom of the Press

Blake Crosslin

Axia College of University of Phoenix

Freedom of the Press

“The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” (Thomas Jefferson) (Rights of the People)

Freedom of speech applies the rights for individuals to publish ideas. Not only that, it also grants the right printing and for broadcast media to cover news and express political views. As society grows more and more complex, people rely more now than ever on newspapers, television and radio to keep up with politics, world and local news. (Rights of the People)

Freedom of the press and speech originated alike. Under English law, either written or spoken, critical views about the government were punishable by law. The government saw criticism as evil, no matter if it was true or not, it caused doubt to be laid on public officers and decrease their reliability and integrity. During the mid 18th century, progress toward a truly free press was halting until the great English commentator; Sir William Blackstone declared that liberty of the press is essential to a free state. (Rights of the People)

In 1798, not long after the adoption of the Constitution, the governing Federalist Party attempted to stifle criticism by means of the Alien and Sedition Acts. (It was notable that the Sedition Act made criticism of Congress, and of the President, a crime, but not criticism of the Vice-President. Jefferson, a non-Federalist, was Vice-President at the time the Act was passed.) These restrictions on freedom of the press proved very unpopular and worked against the Federalists. Thomas Jefferson was among those who opposed the Acts, and he was elected President in the election of 1800. Jefferson then pardoned all those convicted under the Acts. He made it a principle not to ask what they had done, but only whether they were charged under the Acts. In his first Inaugural Address in 1801 he reiterated his longstanding commitment to freedom of speech and of the press: "If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." (Thomas Jefferson) (Paul, 2004)

Every year, Reporters Without Borders establishes a ranking of countries in terms of their freedom of the press. The Worldwide Press Freedom index is based on responses to surveys sent to journalists that are members of partner organizations of the RWB, as well as related specialists such as researchers, jurists and human rights activists. The survey asks questions about direct attacks on journalists and the media as well as other indirect sources of pressure against the free press, such as pressure on journalists by non-governmental groups. RWB is careful to note that the index only deals with press freedom, and does not measure the quality of journalism. In 2003, the countries where press was the most free were Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands and Norway. In 2004, apart from the above countries, Denmark, Ireland, Slovakia, and Switzerland were tied at the top of the list, followed by New Zealand and Latvia. The countries with the least degree of press freedom was North Korea, followed by Burma, Turkmenistan, People's Republic of China (mainland only), Vietnam, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. (Paul, 2004)

Freedom of the press worldwide according to Reporters Without Borders.

Freedom of the press is an extremely problematic concept for most non-democratic systems of government since, in the modern age, strict control of access to information is critical to the existence of most non-democratic governments and their associated control systems and security apparatus. To this end, most non-democratic societies employ state-run news organizations to promote the propaganda critical to maintaining an existing political power base and suppress (often very brutally, through the use of police, military, or intelligence agencies) any significant attempts by the media or individual journalists to challenge the approved "government line" on contentious issues. In such countries, journalists operating on the fringes of what is deemed to be acceptable will very often find themselves the subject of considerable intimidation by agents of the state. This can range from simple threats to their professional careers (firing, professional blacklisting) to death threats, kidnapping, torture, and assassination. (US History Companion: Freedom of The Press, 2004)

Reporters Without Borders reports that, in 2003, 42 journalists lost their lives pursuing their profession and that, in the same year, at least 130 journalists were in prison because of their occupational activities. (US History Companion: Freedom of The Press, 2004)

In 2005, 63 journalists and 5 media assistants were killed worldwide.


Paul, S. (2004). The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications. Retrieved May 11, 2008, from The Creation of The Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications Web site:

Rights of the People. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2008, from International Information Programs Web site:

US History Companion: Freedom of The Press. (2004). Retrieved May 11, 2008, from

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