Freedom from the Press
WILLIAM MILLER, ANNIS-MAY TIMPSON, AND MICHAEL LESSNOFF
A free press has a central role in theories of liberal democracy. The First Amendment to the US Constitution linked individual citizens' freedom of speech with freedom for the press. Mill denounced the 'peculiar evil of silencing the expression of opinion'. In a liberal democracy a free press is necessary to inform the public, to open minds to new viewpoints, and to hold the powerful in check by exposing their sins and criticizing their policies.
But the relationship between press freedom, individual liberty, and democracy has always been somewhat ambiguous. Our vision of a free press threatened by government is easily replaced by that of an ordinary individual threatened or misled by powerful press interests. The range of published information and views may be limited by owners, advertisers, or governments applying formal or informal censorship, by threats of legal action from powerful interests exposed to scandal, and, not least, by the apathy and prejudice of the mass of readers and viewers. It may be distorted by the pursuit of commercial profits and journalistic reputations, or by pressure from lobbyists and 'spin-doctors'. Obviously the particular mix of corrupting influences is likely to vary a great deal between print and broadcasting, and between state and private enterprises, but constraint and distortion are endemic.
This has led to three main concerns about the press: bias, censorship, and the abuse of press freedom.____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Elitism, Populism, and European Politics. Contributors: Jack E. S. Hayward - Editor. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 67.
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