Template:Unreferenced Template:Freedom Freedom of the press is the guarantee by a government of free public press for its citizens and their associations, extended to members of news-gathering organizations (journalists), and their published reporting. In many countries there are constitutional or statutory protections pertaining to freedom of the press.
With respect to governmental information, any government distinguishes which materials are public or protected from disclosure to the public based on classification of information as sensitive, classified or secret and being otherwise protected from disclosure due to relevance of the information to protecting the national interest. Many governments are also subject to sunshine laws or freedom of information legislation that are used to define the ambit of national interest.
- 1 Basic principles and criteria
- 2 Status of press freedom worldwide
- 3 History
- 4 Implications of new technologies
- 5 Organizations for press freedom
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Basic principles and criteria[edit | edit source]
Template:Journalism In developed countries, freedom of the press implies that all people should have the right to express themselves in writing or in any other way of expression of personal opinion or creativity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers"
This philosophy is usually accompanied by legislation ensuring various degrees of freedom of scientific research (known as scientific freedom), publishing, press and printing the depth to which these laws are entrenched in a country's legal system can go as far down as its constitution. The concept of freedom of speech is often covered by the same laws as freedom of the press, thereby giving equal treatment to media and individuals.
Besides legal definitions, some non-governmental organizations use other criteria to judge the level of press freedom around the world:
- Reporters Without Borders considers the number of journalists murdered, expelled or harassed, and the existence of a state monopoly on TV and radio, as well as the existence of censorship and self-censorship in the media, and the overall independence of media as well as the difficulties that foreign reporters may face.
- The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) uses the tools of journalism to help journalists by tracking press freedom issues through independent research, fact-finding missions, and firsthand contacts in the field, including local working journalists in countries around the world. CPJ shares information on breaking cases with other press freedom organizations worldwide through the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a global e-mail network. CPJ also tracks journalist deaths and detentions. CPJ staff applies strict criteria for each case; researchers independently investigate and verify the circumstances behind each death or imprisonment.
- Freedom House likewise studies the more general political and economic environments of each nation in order to determine whether relationships of dependence exist that limit in practice the level of press freedom that might exist in theory. So the concept of independence of the press is one closely linked with the concept of press freedom.
Status of press freedom worldwide[edit | edit source]
Worldwide press freedom index[edit | edit source]
Every year, Reporters Without Borders establishes a ranking of countries in terms of their freedom of the press. The Worldwide press freedom index list is based on responses to surveys sent to journalists that are members of partner organisations 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.
Non-democratic states[edit | edit source]
Template:POV-section According to Reporters Without Borders, more than a third of the world's people live in countries where there is no press freedom. Overwhelmingly, these people live in countries where there is no system of democracy or where there are serious deficiencies in the democratic process.
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.
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 as a result of their occupational activities.
In 2005, 63 journalists and 5 media assistants were killed worldwide.
- The Lira Baysetova case in Kazakhstan.
- In Nepal, Eritrea and China (mainland only), journalists may spend years in jail simply for using the "wrong" word or photo. 
- The Georgiy R. Gongadze case in Ukraine (information needed, spammer removed information)
Regions closed to foreign reporters[edit | edit source]
- Chechnya, Russia 
- Jaffna, Sri Lanka 
- Myanmar (Burma)
- Papua, Indonesia 
- Waziristan, Pakistan 
- Tibet, People's Republic of China 
History[edit | edit source]
England[edit | edit source]
The Glorious Revolution of 1688 in England established parliamentary sovereignty over the Crown and, above all, the right of revolution. A major contributor to Western liberal theory was John Locke. Locke argued in Two Treatises of Government that the individual placed some of his rights present in the state of nature in trusteeship with the sovereign (government) in return for protection of certain natural individual rights. A social contract was entered into by the people.
Until 1694, England had an elaborate system of licensing. No publication was allowed without the accompaniment of a government-granted license. Fifty years earlier, at a time of civil war, John Milton wrote his pamphlet Areopagitica. In this work Milton argued forcefully against this form of government censorship and parodied the idea, writing "when as debtors and delinquents may walk abroad without a keeper, but unoffensive books must not stir forth without a visible jailer in their title." Although at the time it did little to halt the practice of licensing it would be viewed later a significant milestone in press freedom.
Milton's central argument was that the individual is capable of using reason and distinguishing right from wrong, good from bad. In order to be able to exercise this ration right, the individual must have unlimited access to the ideas of his fellow men in “a free and open encounter." From Milton's writings developed the concept of the open marketplace of ideas, the idea that when people argue against each other, the good arguments will prevail. One form of speech that was widely restricted in England was seditious libel, and laws were in place that made criticizing the government a crime. The King was above public criticism and statements critical of the government were forbidden, according to the English Court of the Star Chamber. Truth was not a defense to seditious libel because the goal was to prevent and punish all condemnation of the government.
John Stuart Mill approached the problem of authority versus liberty from the viewpoint of a 19th century utilitarian: The individual has the right of expressing himself so long as he does not harm other individuals. The good society is one in which the greatest number of persons enjoy the greatest possible amount of happiness. Applying these general principles of liberty to freedom of expression, Mill states that if we silence an opinion, we may silence the truth. The individual freedom of expression is therefore essential to the well-being of society.
Mill’s application of the general principles of liberty is expressed in his book On Liberty: "If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and one, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind".
Nazi Germany[edit | edit source]
The dictatorship of Adolf Hitler largely suppressed freedom of the press through Joseph Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry. As the Ministry's name implies, propaganda did not carry the negative connotations that it does today (or did in the Allied countries); how-to manuals were openly distributed by that same ministry explaining the craft of effective propaganda. The Ministry also acted as a central control-point for all media, issuing orders as to what stories could be run and what stories would be suppressed. Anyone involved in the film industry -- from directors to the lowliest assistant -- had to sign an oath of loyalty to the Nazi Party, due to opinion-changing power Goebbels perceived movies to have. (Goebbels himself maintained some personal control over every single film made in Nazi Europe.) Journalists who crossed the Propaganda Ministry were routinely imprisoned or shot as traitors.
India[edit | edit source]
The Indian Constitution, while not mentioning the word "press", provides for "the right to freedom of speech and expression" (Article 19(1) a). However this right is subject to restrictions under subclause (2), whereby this freedom can be restricted for reasons of "sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, preserving decency, preserving morality, in relation to contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to an offence". Laws such as the Official Secrets Act and Prevention of Terrorism Act  (PoTA) have been used to limit press freedom. Under PoTA, person could be detained for up to six months for being in contact with a terrorist or terrorist group. PoTA was repealed in 2006, but the Official Secrets Act 1923 continues.
For the first half-century of independence, media control by the state was the major constraint on press freedom. Indira Gandhi famously stated in 1975 that All India Radio is "a Government organ, it is going to remain a Government organ..."  With the liberalization starting in the 1990s, private control of media has burgeoned, leading to increasing independence and greater scrutiny of government. Organizations like Tehelka and NDTV have been particularly influential, e.g. in bringing about the resignation of powerful Haryana minister Venod Sharma.
Italy[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Freedom of the press in Italy
Russia[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Media freedom in Russia
United States[edit | edit source]
John Hancock was the first person to write newspapers in the British colonies in North America published "by authority," that is, under license from and as the mouthpiece of the colonial governors. The first regularly published newspaper was the Boston News-Letter of John Campbell, published weekly beginning in 1704. The early colonial publishers were either postmasters or government printers, and therefore unlikely to challenge government policies.
The first independent newspaper in the colonies was the New-England Courant, published in Boston by James Franklin beginning in 1721. A few years later, Franklin's younger brother, Benjamin, purchased the Pennsylvania Gazette of Philadelphia, which became the leading newspaper of the colonial era.
During this period, newspapers were unlicensed, and able freely to publish dissenting views, but were subject to prosecution for libel or even sedition if their opinions threatened the government. The notion of "freedom of the press" that later was enshrined in the United States Constitution is generally traced to the seditious libel prosecution of John Peter Zenger by the colonial governor of New York in 1735. In this instance of jury nullification, Zenger was acquitted after his lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, argued to the jury (contrary to established English law) that there was no libel in publishing the truth. Yet even after this celebrated case, colonial governors and assemblies asserted the power to prosecute and even imprison printers for publishing unapproved views.
During the American Revolution, a free press was identified by Revolutionary leaders as one of the elements of liberty that they sought to preserve. The Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) proclaimed that "the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments." Similarly, the Constitution of Massachusetts (1780) declared, "The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore, to be restrained in this commonwealth." Following these examples, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution restricted Congress from abridging the freedom of the press and the closely associated freedom of speech.
John Locke’s ideas had inspired both the French and American revolutions. Thomas Jefferson wanted to unite the two streams of liberalism, the English and the French schools of thought. His goal was to create a government that would provide both security and opportunity for the individual. An active press was essential as a way of educating the population. In order to be able to work freely, the press must be free from control by the state. Jefferson was a person who himself suffered great calumnies of the press. Despite this, in his second inaugural address, he proclaimed that a government that could not stand up under criticism deserved to fall.
Jefferson said: "No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all avenues of the truth".
- New York Times Co. v. United States: The Supreme Court upheld the publication of the Pentagon Papers.
- New York Times Co. v. Sullivan: The Court decided that in order for written words to be libel, it must be, first of all, false
Notable exceptions[edit | edit source]
- 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. Template:Fact) These restrictions on freedom of the press proved very unpopular in the end and worked against the Federalists, leading to the party's eventual demise. Thomas Jefferson was among those who opposed the Acts, and did so vehemently, and he was elected President in the election of 1800. Jefferson then pardoned most of those convicted under the Acts. He made it a principle not to ask what they had done, but only whether they had been 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."
- The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, which amended it, imposed restrictions on the free press during wartime. It carried fines of $10,000 and up to 20 years imprisonment for people publishing "... disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States ..." In Schenck v. United States (1919), the Supreme Court upheld the laws, setting the "Clear and present danger" standard. Congress repealed both laws in 1921, and Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) revised the "Clear and present danger" test to the "Imminent lawless action" test, which is less restrictive.
- 1988: Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier: The Supreme Court upheld that the principal of a school has the right to review and block controversial articles of a school paper funded by the school and published in the school's name.
- In the United States in 2005, interpretation of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act may consider political statements as being the equivalent of campaign donations. Because access to Internet statements are weakly controlled, the campaign value of statements is not known in advance and a high ultimate value may trigger large fines for violations. This particularly threatens Internet statements by individuals, and ambiguous definitions of membership in the press make the possible effects ambiguous.
- 2008: Wikileaks was forcefully censored by the United States. Wikileaks was given only hours notice "by email" prior to the hearing. Wikileaks pre-litigation California council Julie Turner attended the start of hearing in a personal capacity but was then asked to leave the court room. After appeal, however, all the court of appeals threw out the case, restoring access to Wikileaks.
Implications of new technologies[edit | edit source]
Many of the traditional means of delivering information are being slowly superseded by the increasing pace of modern technological advance. Almost every conventional mode of media and information dissemination has a modern counterpart that offers significant potential advantages to journalists seeking to maintain and enhance their 'freedom of speech'. A few simple examples of such phenomena include:
- Terrestrial television versus satellite television: Whilst terrestrial television is relatively easy to manage and manipulate, satellite television is much more difficult to control as journalistic content can easily be broadcast from other jurisdictions beyond the control of individual governments. An example of this in the Middle East is the satellite broadcaster Al Jazeera. This Arabic language media channel operates out of the 'relatively liberal' state of Qatar, and often presents views and content that are problematic to a number of governments in the region and beyond. However, because of the increased affordability and miniaturisation of satellite technology (e.g. dishes and receivers) it is simply not practicable for most states to control popular access to the channel.
- Web-based publishing (e.g., blogging) vs. traditional publishing: Traditional magazines and newspapers rely on physical resources (e.g. offices, printing presses) that can easily be targeted and forced to close down. Web-based publishing systems can be run using ubiquitous and inexpensive equipment and can operate from any global jurisdiction. To get control over web publications, nations and organisations are using Geolocation and Geolocation software.
- Voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) vs. conventional telephony: Although conventional telephony systems are easily tapped and recorded, modern VOIP technology can employ sophisticated encryption systems to evade central monitoring systems. As VOIP and similar technologies become more widespread they are likely to make the effective monitoring of journalists (and their contacts and activities) a very difficult task for governments.
Naturally, governments are responding to the challenges posed by new media technologies by deploying increasingly sophisticated technology of their own (a notable example being China's attempts to impose control of through a state run internet service provider that controls access to the Internet) but it seems that this will becomes an ever increasingly difficult task as journalists continue to find new ways to exploit technology and stay one step ahead of the generally slower moving government institutions that attempt to censor them.
Organizations for press freedom[edit | edit source]
- ARTICLE 19
- The Committee to Protect Journalists
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- International Freedom of Expression Exchange
- Internationale Medienhilfe
- International Press Institute
- OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media
- Reporters Without Borders
- World Association of Newspapers
- World Press Freedom Committee
- Worldwide Governance Indicators
- Student Press Law Center
See also[edit | edit source]
- Media transparency
- List of indices of freedom
- Gag order
- First Amendment to the United States Constitution
- Freedom of speech
- Journalistic standards
- International Freedom of Expression Exchange — “The largest online archive of information on press freedom violations”, dating back to 1995 and covering more than 120 countries.
- Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
- Journaliste en danger
- Prior restraint
- Free press
- World Press Freedom Day on May 3
- Declaration of Windhoek (1991)
- Tunisia Monitoring Group
- Areopagitica: A speech of Mr John Milton for the liberty of unlicensed printing to the Parliament of England
- Cohen v. Cowles Media Co. — a ruling in the USA that a reporter's promise of a source's confidentiality may be enforced in court.
- Journalism ethics and standards
Notes[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
- Risorse Etiche
- the ACTivist Magazine
- Banned Magazine, the journal of censorship and secrecy.
- News and Free Speech - Newspaper Index Blog
- Press Freedom
- OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media
- MANA - the Media Alliance for New Activism
- IMH-Internationale Medienhilfe www.medienhilfe.org
- International Freedom of Expression Exchange- Monitors press freedom around the world
- IPS Inter Press Service Independent news on press freedom around the world
- The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
- Reporters Without Borders
- World Press Freedom Committee
- Student Press Law Center
ar:حرية الصحافة da:Trykkefrihed de:Pressefreiheit es:Libertad de prensa fr:Liberté de la presse it:Libertà di stampa he:חופש העיתונות ms:Kebebasan akhbar nl:Persvrijheid ja:報道の自由 no:Trykkefrihet nds:Freeheit vun de Presse pt:Liberdade de imprensa fi:Lehdistönvapaus sv:Tryckfrihet vi:Tự do báo chí
- http://web.archive.org/web/20021022203741/http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=280 About Reporters Without Borders
- Template:Cite web
- Template:Cite journal
- BBC NEWS | Technology | Whistle-blower site taken offline
- Judge Shuts Down Web Site Specializing in Leaks - New York Times
- Wikileaks.org under injunction - Wikileaks