Protecting Freedom of the Press
“Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the principle that communication and expression through various media, including printed and electronic media, especially published materials, should be considered a right to be exercised freely”. Wikipedia
By D.S. Mitchell, Jones William & David Shadrick
Bill Of Rights
The “right of the public to know” is among the fundamental principles of the American ideology. Freedom of the press is that guarantee. Citizens in colonial times were allowed to print or say anything they wanted without censorship. Sounds like freedom of the press. The government, however, could then prosecute you for what you said using the Seditious Libel law as their basis. The British government appointed Colonial officials to govern the English colonies. Those “colonial officials” made it common practice to punish the press for what they found inflammatory or negative to the crown. As friction grew and colonists increased resistance to British rule more than 1200 cases were brought against colonists for speaking their mind publicly, or in the press. Freedom of the press did not exist.
Madison Steps Up
After winning the Revolutionary war, the framer’s of the proposed Constitution met to define what free speech and other basic freedoms would actually be under United States law. James Madison was assigned the task. His ideals would form the first ten amendments of the Constitution. British restrictions and unfair laws were still fresh in Madison’s mind. He had a core principle belief in freedom of the press and access to information. A government that allowed for an unrestrained and healthy flow of information must be guaranteed.
The First Amendment
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” That protection guaranteed by the First Amendment of the constitution meant that every American, poor or rich, regardless of religious or political belief could say or publish anything he or she wished without control by the federal government. Madison had protected free speech and freedom of the press.
Publish At Your Own Risk
In the early days, the media consisted of printing presses, pamphlets, newspapers and books. Today, it also includes magazines, radio, films, television, video and the internet. Therefore, the press means any news functioning in any media. Essentially, the free media is a watchdog to inquire and report on government misconduct. It also is a spirited marketplace of ideas, a channel for common citizens to express themselves and gain knowledge on a range of opinions and information. There is an undisputed right to put what sentiments that pleases an individual before the public. That is freedom of the press. If a person publishes what is later deemed mischievous, illegal, improper, or “secret” he will be subjected to the consequences of his foolish audacity, and a free speech defense is worthless.