Press Freedom and Global Politics
Few would assert that the issue of press freedom suffers from a lack of political attention or a lack of scholarly interest. Beginning with Pope Alexander VI in 1501 and for almost every moment of the nearly five centuries that have followed, leaders, from emperors to local school boards, have openly struggled to exert control over the product of the printing press and its mass communication descendants. The stakes in these struggles have always been extreme. Death penalties for unlicensed printing were instituted as early as 1535 ( Hocking, 1947), and the politically motivated imprisonment, abduction, and murder of journalists are still common events.
For the most part, efforts to defend press freedom have been equal to the task. In fact, if the gradual growth of press freedom around the world is any indicator, the defense and pursuit of press freedom might even be considered to be slightly more robust overall than the effort to censor. If you mark the beginning of the fight for press freedom with the arguments for unlicensed printing put forth in John Milton's Areopagitica, scholars, philosophers, and politicians have been fighting for the freedom to publish free of government control for three and a half centuries. Further, it has not been a silent or quiet struggle. Many of the more prominent names who have fought to defend or extend the freedom of the press, such as Thomas Jefferson, are synonymous with creation of the democratic foundations of the United States. The struggle continues