Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the Press
By: Jackie Link
Lindsey Pryce
Julie Huynh
Diana Jasser
Abbey Lovat
Kirstie Racinski
"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 for a
moment to prefer the latter.“
- Thomas Jefferson
What is Freedom of the Press?
What is Freedom of the Press?
It is the liberty to print or disseminate information, by printing, broadcasting, or
through electronic media, without prior restraints such as licensing
requirements or content review and without subsequent punishment for what
is said as well.
The press is a very broad term that includes newspapers, television, radio,
books, lectures, movies, art, dance, telephone, cassettes, CDs, video discs,
magazines, electronic bulletin boards, computer networks, billboards, and
video tapes.
Peter McWilliams, author of website, states:
o “We rely on it, depend on its accuracy, and, if it turns out to be inaccurate, we
expect another news organization to expose the expos. Freedom of the press is a
fundamental right, up there with freedom of speech and freedom of and from
religion. A free press is not a luxury; it's a necessity.”
Press is now called “Media”
limited by the government and churches
Historically, restriction of the press has
occurred in these two ways:
o censorship or mandatory licensing by the
government in advance of publication
o punishment for printed material, especially that
considered by the government to be seditious
Freedom of the Press in England
o John Milton, in his Areopagitica
(1644), attacked the licensing
law in England and told
Parliament to suppress
offensive publications after
their appearance if necessary.
o His objections eventually
became a cornerstone of the
Freedom of the Press
o but it was not until 1695 that
the licensing and censorship
laws were abolished.
Freedom of the Press in America
o The Trial of John Peter Zenger
against libel charges in 1735
was the foundation of the
Freedom of Press in the U.S.
o He published a newspaper
that opposed the tedious
policies of governor William
o In successfully defending
Zenger, his lawyer, Andrew
Hamilton established the
precedent that a statement,
even if insulting, is not libelous if
it is proved, affirming freedom
of the press in America.
o After the American Revolution, many states
presented freedom of the press
o the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution said
that Congress will not make any laws diminishing
the freedom of the press, etc.
o In reaction to the Sedition Act (1798), a more
tolerant version of the First Amendment became
dominant, which saw it as rejecting seditious libel
as a crime.
o The First Amendment was later applied to all the
states by judicial interpretation of the Fourteenth
Amendment in 1868.
The Development of the Freedom of the Press
o Samuel Adams, a
radical journalist,
roused the people
by using the
colonial press to
resist the Stamp
Act which
eventually was
The Development of the Freedom of the Press
o The American Revolution produced many historic
o Even though the Constitution contained a clause for
freedom of the press in the Bill of Rights, the government
still set many controls on the press and quieted the
opinions of most early journalists.
o The Supreme Court’s position on First Amendment
freedoms was to suspend free speech and press if the
expressions constituted a “reasonable tendency” to
endanger society.
o This was the beginning of press freedom in America, the
evolution of the “Fourth Estate”
Power of the Press
o The many different types of
o “Watchdogs”
o What the press can and
cannot do:
o Examples of when then power
of the press was questioned:
o The Hazelwood Case
Senior editor of the Hazelwood
school newspaper at the time
of controversy.
These Supreme Court justices voted with
the majority saying no First Amendment
rights had been violated.
(From left to right, they are Rehnquist,
White, Stevens, O’Connor, and Scalia.)
These Supreme Court justices believed First
Amendment rights of the students had been
violated. (From Left to right they are Brennan,
Marshall, and Blackmun.)
Pros of the Freedom of the Press
o The news and media can alert the public about
government actions without them knowing.
o The people have a right to know what is going on in
the world and the media's job is to inform them
o No democratic process can occur without access to
proper information.
o The most important things the press can report on
is information going on with the president, such as
corruption, incompetence, or general social
Cons of the Freedom of the Press
o Yellow journalism
o Freedom and privacy concerning public
o False information can be published
concerning public figures and public matters.
Who Does Freedom of the Press Affect??
How Freedom of the Press affects people worldwide.
Recent Cases Concerning Freedom of the Press
o A recent case
happened on August
3, 2008 when a
National Press Club
protests jailing a New
York Times Reporter,
Barry Bearak who
was covering the
presidential election
in Zimbabwe.
The man who
exposed Nixon,
Daniel Ellsberg.
o This dramatic true-life
account follows Daniel
Ellsberg, the Harvard
graduate and ex-Marine who
disclosed information from
the Pentagon Papers in 1971,
exposing secrets about the
U.S. involvement in Vietnam
that contributed to Richard
resignation from the
Hilary Clinton
Ethics in Journalism
o Defamation-to harm someone’s
o Two main types: libel (written)
and slander (verbal)
o Libel is what journalists are sued
Libel is. . .
o The publication of a false statement of
fact that seriously harms someone’s
o In order to successfully sue for libel,
you must first prove the journalist acted
with malice. Then, you must prove 5
other thing.
“Without freedom of thought, there can be no wisdom
and no freedom of the people without freedom of
opinion and it is the right of every man until it does not
affect the freedom of others.”