Freedom of the press
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the fundamental 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. Such freedom implies the absence of interference from an overreaching state; its preservation may be sought through constitution or other legal protection and security. Without respect to governmental information, any government may distinguish which materials are public or protected from disclosure to the public. State materials are protected due to either one of two reasons: the classification of information as sensitive, classified or secret, or the 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 and enable citizens to request access to government-held information. The United Nations' 1948 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 to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers".
- Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers. Rulers are no more than attorneys, agents, and trustees, of the people; and if the cause, the interest, and trust, is insidiously betrayed, or wantonly trifled away, the people have a right to revoke the authority that they themselves have deputed, and to constitute other and better agents, attorneys and trustees.
- John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law (1765)
- 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.
- When people talk of the Freedom of Writing, Speaking, or thinking, I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more.
- John Adams Letter to Thomas Jefferson (15 July 1817)
- The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.
- Hannah Arendt, Hannah Arendt: From an Interview. Comments made in 1974 during an interview with the French writer Roger Errera and published in October 26, 1978 issue of The NewYork Review of Books Interview. Copyright © 1978 Mary McCarthy West, Trustee. Archived via Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive on February 22, 2017.
- Truth is the ultimate end of the whole universe.
- Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles (1259–1265), I, 1, 2.
- Our No. 1 enemy is ignorance. And I believe that is the No. 1 enemy for everyone — it's not understanding what actually is going on in the world.
- Julian Assange, quoted in Facebook Nation: Total Information Awareness by Newton Lee, (2014)
- You have to start with the truth. The truth is the only way that we can get anywhere. Because any decision-making that is based upon lies or ignorance can't lead to a good conclusion.
- Julian Assange, quoted in "Julian Assange, monk of the online age who thrives on intellectual battle". The Guardian. 2010-08-01. Retrieved on 2010-08-01.
- I think the conviction of appellant or anyone else for exhibiting a motion picture abridges freedom of the press as safeguarded by the First Amendment, which is made obligatory on the States by the Fourteenth.
- The Constitution specifically selected the press, which includes not only newspapers, books, and magazines, but also humble leaflets and circulars, to play an important role in the discussion of public affairs. Thus the press serves and was designed to serve as a powerful antidote to any abuses of power by governmental officials and as a constitutionally chosen means for keeping officials elected by the people responsible to all the people whom they were selected to serve. Suppression of the right of the press to praise or criticize governmental agents and to clamor and contend for or against change, which is all that this editorial did, muzzles one of the very agencies the Framers of our Constitution thoughtfully and deliberately selected to improve our society and keep it free. The Alabama Corrupt Practices Act by providing criminal penalties for publishing editorials such as the one here silences the press at a time when it can be most effective. It is difficult to conceive of a more obvious and flagrant abridgment of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press.
- In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.
- Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. [...] The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic.
- Hugo L. Black, (New York Times Company v. United States, 1971).
- Debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.
- The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state: but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public: to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press: but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. To subject the press to the restrictive power of a licenser as was formerly done, both before and since the revolution, is to subject all freedom of sentiment to the prejudices of one man, and make him the arbitrary and infallible judge of all controverted points in learning, religion, and government. But to punish (as the law does at present) any dangerous or offensive writings, which, when published, shall on a fair and impartial trial be adjudged of a pernicious tendency, is necessary for the preservation of peace and good order, of government and religion, the only solid foundations of civil liberty. Thus the will of individuals is still left free; the abuse only of that free will is the object of legal punishment. Neither is any restraint hereby laid upon freedom of thought or enquiry: liberty of private sentiment is still left; the disseminating, or making public, of bad sentiments, destructive of the ends of society, is the crime which society corrects. A man (says a fine writer on this subject) may be allowed to keep poisons in his closet, but not publicly to vend them as cordials. And to this we may add, that the only plausible argument heretofore used for restraining the just freedom of the press, "that it was necessary to prevent the daily abuse of it," will entirely lose it's force, when it is shewn (by a seasonable exertion of the laws) that the press cannot be abused to any bad purpose, without incurring a suitable punishment: whereas it never can be used to any good one, when under the control of an inspector. So true will it be found, that to censure the licentiousness, is to maintain the liberty, of the press.
- Power can be very addictive. And it can be corrosive. And it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power.
- As mainstream news outlets become increasingly complacent, and even supportive of pro-war policies, it becomes more essential that anti-war voices, and anti-war journalists in particular, resist the attempt by the United States to set the precedent that the act of publishing war crimes is a punishable offense.
After 20 years of the United States military destroying entire countries under the guise of fighting terrorism, there is finally a partial reckoning with U.S. warmongering around the world. It cannot be said that Americans are particularly anti-war now, but at the very least, Biden’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan was widely popular across the political spectrum. Yet, many news outlets instead chose to emphasize the minority position on Afghanistan by prioritizing commentary from interventionists and weapons lobbyists over anti-war scholars and activists, and by falsely representing the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan as a positive. This sudden emphasis on the supposedly positive role of U.S. occupation in Afghanistan is a particularly dangerous line for journalists to push considering how little effort the U.S. media placed on covering the conflict prior to withdrawal. One study found that in 2020, three major news outlets gave the conflict a combined coverage of less than five minutes.
- In contrast to publications that take such a careless or outright supportive stance on the irreparable harm of U.S. foreign policy are WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Following his view that “if wars can be started with lies, they can be stopped by truth,” Assange has published some of the most vital information on U.S. foreign policy of the 21st century with perfect accuracy. Some of the information provided to the public (thanks to the anonymous online source submission system developed by Assange) includes the CIA rendition program, detainee abuse at Guantanamo Bay, and U.S. war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and more. It is this view on publishing which understands war as something to be exposed and resisted that has made Assange such a hated figure by warmongers in the United States.
Despite the many problems with the mainstream press, journalism as an institution remains one of the most effective methods of resisting, and at times, ending wars. Even those distrustful of the press should be willing to oppose attacks on the right to a free press when such attacks occur. It is the guarantee of press freedom that enables anti-war reporting to make its way into the mainstream at times, shifting people's understanding of what their government does.
The press still has the power to challenge and prevent U.S. wars. However, this power hangs in the balance in the form of Julian Assange's fate. Recent coverage of the Afghanistan withdrawal shows the potential for two types of press. One which sees its role as the mouthpiece for the most war-hungry members of a global empire or one that shows the true nature of war to the public, enabling them to oppose it and giving its victims some justice. For anti-war advocates who would rather see the latter option covering foreign policy, it is essential to show strong support for Julian Assange and demand the charges against him be dropped immediately.
- WikiLeaks... published nearly 400,000 field reports about the Iraq War, which contained evidence of U.S. war crimes, over 15,000 previously unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians, and the systematic murder, torture, rape and abuse by the Iraqi army and authorities that were ignored by U.S. forces.
In addition, WikiLeaks published the Guantánamo Files, 779 secret reports that revealed the U.S. government’s systematic violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, by abusing nearly 800 men and boys, ages 14 to 89.
One of the most notorious releases by WikiLeaks was the 2007 “Collateral Murder” video, which showed a U.S. Army Apache helicopter target and fire on unarmed civilians in Baghdad. More than 12 civilians were killed, including two Reuters reporters and a man who came to rescue the wounded. Two children were injured. Then a U.S. Army tank drove over one of the bodies, severing it in half. Those acts constitute three separate war crimes prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Army Field Manual.
- Marjorie Cohn in Extradition of Assange Would Set a Dangerous Precedent, Truthout (17 February 2020)
- We welcome everyone here to the hearing. In the Texas v. Johnson case in 1989, the Supreme Court set forth one of the fundamental principles of our democracy. That is, that if there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.
- As an initial matter, there is no doubt that WikiLeaks is in an unpopular position right now. Many feel their publication was offensive. But unpopularity is not a crime, and publishing offensive information isn't either. And the repeated calls from Members of Congress, the government, journalists, and other experts crying out for criminal prosecutions or other extreme measures cause me some consternation...Indeed, when everyone in this town is joined together calling for someone's head, it is a pretty sure sign that we might want to slow down and take a closer look... Our country was founded on the belief that speech is sacrosanct, and that the answer to bad speech is not censorship or prosecution, but more speech. And so whatever one thinks about this controversy, it is clear that prosecuting WikiLeaks would raise the most fundamental questions about freedom of speech about who is a journalist and about what the public can know about the actions of their own government...while there's agreement that sometimes secrecy is necessary, the real problem today is not too little secrecy, but too much secrecy... Furthermore, we are too quick to accept government claims that risk the national security...
- It's not very often a federal judge does a 180 degree turn in a case and dissolves an order. But we're very pleased the judge recognized the constitutional implications in this prior restraint.
- The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honourable and just modes of conducting affairs.
- Letter sent by the Continental Congress (October 26, 1774) to the Inhabitants of Quebec. Source: Journal of the Continental Congress, 1904 ed., vol. I, pp. 104, 108.
- Let him (James Harrington) him have his book (The Commonwealth of Oceana); if my government is made to stand, it has nothing to fear from paper shot.
- You can't deal with things you don't know about. And you can only move forward from where you are. So don't we want to know where we are? Don't we want to know what's real? The truth is hard to take sometimes. It isn't always convenient. It can be disappointing. It can be ugly. But knowing — having information about ourselves and the world we live in — is part of our national identity. Our democracy relies on an informed citizenry. Thoughtful, fair, balanced, comprehensive reporting in print and in photos or video may be the best way to know what's going on — the way to best inform ourselves. Information is what keeps us free from tyranny.
- There are those who, in good faith, believe that we should leave the balance between civil liberty and security entirely to our elected leaders, and to those they place in positions of executive responsibility. Again, we do not agree. The American system, as we understand it, is premised on the idea -- championed by such men as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison -- that government run amok poses the greatest potential threat to the people’s liberty, and that an informed citizenry is the necessary check on this threat. The sort of work ProPublica does -- watchdog journalism -- is a key element in helping the public play this role. American history is replete with examples of the dangers of unchecked power operating in secret. Richard Nixon, for instance, was twice elected president of this country. He tried to subvert law enforcement, intelligence and other agencies for political purposes, and was more than willing to violate laws in the process. Such a person could come to power again. We need a system that can withstand such challenges. That system requires public knowledge of the power the government possesses. Today’s story is a step in that direction.
- Why We Published the Decryption Story by ProPublica journalists Stephen Engelberg and Richard Tofel on September 5, 2013 regarding the National Security Agency's efforts to weaken the encryption used in commercial software in the context of the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures
- — Government, in its own estimation, has been at all times a system of perfection; but a free press has examined and detected its errors, and the people have from time to time reformed them. This freedom has alone made our government what it is; this freedom alone can preserve it; and therefore, under the banners of that freedom, to-day I stand up to defend Thomas Paine. ….
His opinions were indeed adverse to our system; — but I maintain that opinion is free, and that conduct alone is amenable to the law.
When men can freely communicate their thoughts and their sufferings, real or imaginary, their passions spend themselves in air, like gunpowder scattered upon the surface; — but pent up by terrors, they work unseen, burst forth in a moment, and destroy everything in their course. Let reason be opposed to reason, and argument to argument, and every good government will be safe.
- A free press is vital to a democratic society because its freedom gives it power. Power in a democracy implies responsibility in its exercise. No institution in a democracy, either governmental or private, can have absolute power. Nor can the limits of power which enforce responsibility be finally determined by the limited power itself. See Carl L. Becker, Freedom and Responsibility in the American Way of Life (1945). In plain English, freedom carries with it responsibility even for the press; freedom of the press is not a freedom from responsibility for its exercise. Most State constitutions expressly provide for liability for abuse of the press' freedom. That there was such legal liability was so taken for granted by the framers of the First Amendment that it was not spelled out. Responsibility for its abuse was imbedded in the law. The First Amendment safeguarded the right. [...] The press does have the right, which is its professional function, to criticize and to advocate. The whole gamut of public affairs is the domain for fearless and critical comment, and not least the administration of justice. But the public function which belongs to the press makes it an obligation of honor to exercise this function only with the fullest sense of responsibility. Without such a lively sense of responsibility, a free press may readily become a powerful instrument of injustice.
- Felix Frankfurter, Pennekamp v. Florida, 328 U.S. 331 (1946), at 355-356 and 365.
- Without a free press there can be no free society. That is axiomatic. However, freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of a free society. The scope and nature of the constitutional guarantee of the freedom of the press are to be viewed and applied in that light.
- Felix Frankfurter, New York Times (November 28, 1954).
- I tell you, in my opinion, the cornerstone of democracy is free press — that's the cornerstone. I'm convinced if the press... it was not possible, of course, but if the free press existed through this century, there wouldn't be Hitler there wouldn't Stalin, there wouldn't be all this incredible price people have to pay for their freedom, you know, because that's what they're always first after… newspapers, radio, television, everything like that.
- A primary function of The Intercept is to insist upon and defend our press freedoms from those who wish to infringe them. We are determined to move forward with what we believe is essential reporting in the public interest and with a commitment to the ideal that a truly free and independent press is a vital component of any healthy democratic society. ... We believe the prime value of journalism is that it imposes transparency, and thus accountability, on those who wield the greatest governmental and corporate power.
- The First Amendment concept of a "free press" must be read in the light of the struggle of free men against prior restraint of publication. From the time of Blackstone it was a tenet of the founding fathers that precensorship was the primary evil to be dealt with in the First Amendment. Fortunately upon the facts adduced in this case there is no sharp clash such as might have appeared between the vital security interest of the Nation and the compelling Constitutional doctrine against prior restraint. If there be some embarrassment to the Government in security aspects as remote as the general embarrassment that flows from any security breach, we must learn to live with it. The security of the Nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions. A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, an ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know. In this case there has been no attempt by the Government at political suppression. There has been no attempt to stifle criticism. Yet in the last analysis it is not merely the opinion of the editorial writer or of the columnist which is protected by the First Amendment. It is the free flow of information so that the public will be informed about the Government and its actions. These are troubled times. There is no greater safety valve for discontent and cynicism about the affairs of Government than freedom of expression in any form. This has been the genius of our institutions throughout our history. It is one of the marked traits of our national life that distinguish us from other nations under different forms of government.
- A Society that prohibits the capacity to speak in truth extinguishes the capacity to live in justice... the battle for Julian's liberty has always been much more than the persecution of a publisher. It is the most important battle for press freedom of our era. And if we lose this battle, it will be devastating, not only for Julian and his family, but for us... Tyrannies invert the rule of law. They turn the law into an instrument of injustice. They cloak their crimes in a faux legality. They use the decorum of the courts and trials, to mask their criminality. Those such as Julian who expose that criminality to the public are dangerous, for without the pretext of legitimacy the tyranny loses credibility and has nothing left in its arsenal but fear, coercion and violence... The long campaign against Julian and WikiLeaks is a window into the collapse of the rule of law, the rise of what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of "inverted totalitarianism," a form of totalitarianism that maintains the fictions of the old capitalist democracy, including its institutions, iconography, patriotic symbols and rhetoric, but internally has surrendered total control to the dictates of global corporations.
- What we are demanding on the political spectrum is in fact conservative: It is the restoration of the rule of law. It is simple and basic. It should not, in a functioning democracy, be incendiary. But living in truth in a despotic system is the supreme act of defiance. This truth terrifies those in power.
The criminal ruling class has all of us locked in its death grip. It cannot be reformed. It has abolished the rule of law. It obscures and falsifies the truth. It seeks the consolidation of its obscene wealth and power. And so, to quote the Queen of Hearts, metaphorically of course, I say, "Off with their heads."
- It is no longer open to doubt that the liberty of the press, and of speech, is within the liberty safeguarded by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from invasion by state action. It was found impossible to conclude that this essential personal liberty of the citizen was left unprotected by the general guaranty of fundamental rights of person and property.
- The exceptional nature of its limitations places in a strong light the general conception that liberty of the press, historically considered and taken up by the Federal Constitution, has meant, principally, although not exclusively, immunity from previous restraints or censorship.
- The administration of government has become more complex, the opportunities for malfeasance and corruption have multiplied, crime has grown to most serious proportions, and the danger of its protection by unfaithful officials and of the impairment of the fundamental security of life and property by criminal alliances and official neglect, emphasizes the primary need of a vigilant and courageous press, especially in great cities.
- Freedom of speech and of the press are fundamental rights which are safeguarded by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution. [...] The right of peaceable assembly is a right cognate to those of free speech and free press, and is equally fundamental. As this Court said in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 552:
The very idea of a government, republican in form, implies a right on the part of its citizens to meet peaceably for consultation in respect to public affairs and to petition for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment of the Federal Constitution expressly guarantees that right against abridgment by Congress. But explicit mention there does not argue exclusion elsewhere. For the right is one that cannot be denied without violating those fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of all civil and political institutions — principles which the Fourteenth Amendment embodies in the general terms of its due process clause. [...]
These rights may be abused by using speech or press or assembly in order to incite to violence and crime. The people, through their legislatures may protect themselves against that abuse. But the legislative intervention, can find constitutional justification only by dealing with the abuse. The rights themselves must not be curtailed. The greater the importance of safeguarding the community from incitements to the overthrow of our institutions by force and violence, the more imperative is the need to preserve inviolate the constitutional rights of free speech, free press and free assembly in order to maintain the opportunity for free political discussion, to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people and that changes, if desired, may be obtained by peaceful means. Therein lies the security of the Republic, the very foundation of constitutional government.
- The liberty of the press is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets. … the press in its historic connotation comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.
- The full impact of printing did not become possible until the adoption of the Bill of Rights in the United States with its guarantee of freedom of the press. A guarantee of freedom of the press in print was intended to further sanctify the printed word and to provide a rigid bulwark for the shelter of vested interests.
- Harold Innis, "Industrialism and Cultural Values", in The Bias of Communication (1951), p. 138.
- 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 a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.
- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington (16 January 1787) Lipscomb & Bergh ed. 6:57.
- I am ... for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.
- Letter to Elbridge Gerry (January 26, 1799); in: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition (ME) (Lipscomb and Bergh, editors), 20 Vols., Washington, D.C., 1903-04, Volume 10, page 78.
- To preserve the freedom of the human mind then and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement.
- Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Green Mumford (18 June 1799).
- 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 the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.
- If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.
- It is really to be lamented that after a public servant has passed a life in important and faithful services, after having given the most plenary satisfaction in every station, it should yet be in the power of every individual to disturb his quiet, by arraigning him in a gazette and by obliging him to act as if he needed a defence, an obligation imposed on him by unthinking minds which never give themselves the trouble of seeking a reflection unless it be presented to them. However it is a part of the price we pay for our liberty, which cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it. To the loss of time, of labour, of money, then, must be added that of quiet, to which those must offer themselves who are capable of serving the public, and all this is better than European bondage. Your quiet may have suffered for a moment on this occasion, but you have the strongest of all supports that of the public esteem.
- Letter to John Jay from Paris, France (January 25, 1786). Source: “From Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 25 January 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 13, 2018. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 9, 1 November 1785 – 22 June 1786, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954, p. 215.]
- Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.
- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. James Currie (28 January 1786) Lipscomb & Bergh 18:ii.
- I have stated that the constitutions of our several States vary more or less in some particulars. But there are certain principles in which all agree, and which all cherish as vitally essential to the protection of the life, liberty, property, and safety of the citizen [...] Freedom of the press, subject only to liability for personal injuries. This formidable censor of the public functionaries, by arraigning them at the tribunal of public opinion, produces reform peaceably, which must otherwise be done by revolution. It is also the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man, and improving him as a rational, moral, and social being.
- It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more compleatly deprive the nation of it's benefits, than is done by it's abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day. I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens, who, reading newspapers, live & die in the belief, that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time; whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables. General facts may indeed be collected from them, such as that Europe is now at war, that Bonaparte has been a successful warrior, that he has subjected a great portion of Europe to his will, &c., &c.; but no details can be relied on. I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.
- An hereditary chief, strictly limited, the right of war vested in the legislative body, a rigid economy of the public contributions, and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses, will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive. But the only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted, when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.
- I do not feel constrained by the press. And I do not want the press to be restricted by the political system. That goes wrong.
Journalist: And if it is the case in Britain, where there is a very free press, but which has taken the Brexit line heavily, is not that negative?
Juncker: The British press is such that I will not miss it. Generally, they do not respect the human rights of political actors at all. Press freedom also has its limits. I do not know exactly where they [the British] are going, but you can feel what you can, what you must. One should not torment people about their private lives.
- It's hard to think of important prosecutions that have not gone forward because reporters have refused to give information. On the other hand, it's hard to make the argument that freedom of the press has been terribly infringed by the legal regime that's been set up. So it may be that the Supreme Court looks at the status quo and says: "Nothing seems terribly wrong with this. People are ignoring a little bit what we said, but it seems to have results that are not too bad, from either perspective."
- Elena Kagan, (Harvard Law Bulletin, 2005). — cited in: London, Robb (Spring 2005). "Faculty Viewpoints: Can Reporters Refuse to Testify?". Harvard Law Bulletin..
- [This is] the most important question relating to the reporter's privilege: Who's entitled to claim it? When the privilege started, it was meant to cover the establishment press: the New York Times, the Washington Post, the major television networks. But as our media have become more diverse and more diffuse, the question of who is a member of the press, and so who gets to claim the privilege, has really come to the fore. Is the blogger entitled to claim it? And if the blogger is, then why not you, and me, and everybody else in the world? And once that happens, there's a real problem for prosecutors seeking to obtain information. So the question of whether you can draw lines in this area, and if so how, is the real question of privilege.
- Elena Kagan, (Harvard Law Bulletin, 2005). — cited in: London, Robb (Spring 2005). "Faculty Viewpoints: Can Reporters Refuse to Testify?". Harvard Law Bulletin..
- The freedom of the press works in such a way that there is not much freedom from it.
- Grace Kelly, as quoted in American Opinion, Vol. 24 (1981), p. 110.
- Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive. ... And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment — the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution — not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants" — but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion. This means greater coverage and analysis of international news — for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security. ... And so it is to the printing press — to the recorder of man's deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news — that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.
- In the 19th century ... even the humblest printer became a gazetteer. But industrial development and the rise of the mass media put an end to the proliferation of papers for every viewpoint. Because of the large amount of capital required to put out a newspaper, the press became concentrated in the hands of big business. Diversity of opinion was placed in jeopardy. Freedom of the press ultimately came to depend on an increasingly restricted ability to publish or be published. As in old authoritarian days, the definition of truth once again risked becoming the prerogative of a few, now the few who had the power of money. It was to ward off this danger that the notion of social responsibility of the media was born.
- Somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. I've Been to the Mountaintop (1968) >Speech delivered at Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee (3 April 1968)
- All over the world, wherever there are capitalists, freedom of the press means freedom to buy up newspapers, to buy writers, to bribe, buy and fake “public opinion” for the benefit of the bourgeoisie.
- Vladimir Lenin, Lenin's Collected Works, Volume 32, pp. 504–509.
- Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.
- Without general elections, without freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, without the free battle of opinions, life in every public institution withers away, becomes a caricature of itself, and bureaucracy rises as the only deciding factor.
- Rosa Luxemburg, Reported in Paul Froelich, Die Russiche Revolution (1940).
- The freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.
- EST. 1862 · The BULLETIN · A free press means a free people.
- Meet John Doe (1941) directed by Frank Capra, written by Robert Riskin, based on a story by Richard Connell and Robert Presnell. In the opening sequence this stone lettering is removed from the wall by jackhammer and replaced with a sign "THE NEW BULLETIN · A STREAMLINED PRESS FOR A STREAMLINED ERA".
- That the General Assembly doth particularly protest against the palpable and alarming infractions of the Constitution, in the two late cases of the "Alien and Sedition Acts" passed at the last session of Congress; the first of which exercises a power no where delegated to the federal government, and which by uniting legislative and judicial powers to those of executive, subverts the general principles of free government; as well as the particular organization, and positive provisions of the federal constitution; and the other of which acts, exercises in like manner, a power not delegated by the constitution, but on the contrary, expressly and positively forbidden by one of the amendments thereto; a power, which more than any other, ought to produce universal alarm, because it is levelled against that right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed, the only effectual guardian of every other right.
- The people, not the government, possess the absolute sovereignty. The legislature, no less than the executive, is under limitations of power. Encroachments are regarded as possible from the one, as well as from the other. Hence, in the United States, the great and essential rights of the people are secured against legislative, as well as against executive ambition. They are secured, not by laws paramount to prerogative, but by constitutions paramount to laws. This security of the freedom of the press requires, that it should be exempt, not only from previous restraint by the executive, as in Great Britain, but from legislative restraint also; and this exemption, to be effectual, must be an exemption not only from the previous inspection of licensers, but from the subsequent penalty of laws.
- James Madison, Report of 1800, for the quotation source see here. Additional source: The Founders' Constitution, Volume 5, Amendment I (Speech and Press), Document 24: James Madison, Report on the Virginia Resolutions, Writings 6:385--401 . In: The Writings of James Madison. Edited by Gaillard Hunt. 9 vols. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1900--1910.
- Some degree of abuse is inseparable from the proper use of every thing, and in no instance is this more true than in that of the press. It has accordingly been decided by the practice of the States, that it is better to leave a few of its noxious branches to their luxuriant growth, than, by pruning them away, to injure the vigour of those yielding the proper fruits. And can the wisdom of this policy be doubted by any who reflect that to the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression; who reflect that to the same beneficent source the United States owe much of the lights which conducted them to the ranks of a free and independent nation, and which have improved their political system into a shape so auspicious to their happiness?
- James Madison, Report of 1800, for the quotation source see here. Additional source: The Founders' Constitution, Volume 5, Amendment I (Speech and Press), Document 24: James Madison, Report on the Virginia Resolutions, Writings 6:385--401 . In: The Writings of James Madison. Edited by Gaillard Hunt. 9 vols. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1900--1910.
- Let it be recollected, lastly, that the right of electing the members of the Government constitutes more particularly the essence of a free and responsible government. The value and efficacy of this right depends on the knowledge of the comparative merits and demerits of the candidates for public trust, and on the equal freedom, consequently, of examining and discussing these merits and demerits of the candidates respectively. It has been seen that a number of important elections will take place while the act is in force, although it should not be continued beyond the term to which it is limited. Should there happen, then, as is extremely probable in relation to some or other of the branches of the Government, to be competitions between those who are and those who are not members of the Government, what will be the situations of the competitors? Not equal; because the characters of the former will be covered by the Sedition Act from animadversions exposing them to disrepute among the people, whilst the latter may be exposed to the contempt and hatred of the people without a violation of the act. What will be the situation of the people? Not free; because they will be compelled to make their election between competitors whose pretensions they are not permitted by the act equally to examine, to discuss, and to ascertain. And from both these situations will not those in power derive an undue advantage for continuing themselves in it, which, by impairing the right of election, endangers the blessings of the Government founded on it?
- A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
- You know a country is in trouble when its leader tries to challenge and undermine press freedoms.
- Cindy McCain, Stronger (2021)
- We need a free press. We must have it. It's vital. If you want to preserve - I'm very serious now - if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started. They get started by suppressing free press. In other words, a consolidation of power. When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press.
- John McCain, as quoted in "McCain says suppressing free press is 'how dictators get started'" (19 February 2017), Reuters
- A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favour. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.
- Nelson Mandela on freedom of expression, At the international press institute congress (14 February 1994). Source: From Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations © 2010 by Nelson R. Mandela and The Nelson Mandela Foundation
- We think we have got freedom of the press. When one millionaire has ten newspapers and ten million people have no newspapers — that is not freedom of the press.
- Anastas Mikoyan (26 January 1959); quoted in "Traveling With Mikoyan Quote By Quote" - Time.
- I confess I do not see in what cases the Congress can, with any pretence of right, make a law to suppress the freedom of the press; though I am not clear, that Congress is restrained from laying any duties whatever on certain pieces printed, and perhaps Congress may require large bonds for the payment of these duties. Should the printer say, the freedom of the press was secured by the constitution of the state in which he lived, Congress might, and perhaps, with great propriety, answer, that the federal constitution is the only compact existing between them and the people; in this compact the people have named no others, and therefore Congress, in exercising the powers assigned them, and in making laws to carry them into execution are restrained by nothing beside the federal constitution.
- A free press is one where it's okay to state the conclusion you're led to by the evidence. One reason I'm in hot water is because my colleagues and I at NOW didn't play by the conventional rules of Beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into Democrats & Republicans, liberals & conservatives, and allow journalists to pretend they have done their job if instead of reporting the truth behind the news, they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the news.
- This "zeal for secrecy" I am talking about — and I have barely touched the surface — adds up to a victory for the terrorists. When they plunged those hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon three years ago this morning, they were out to hijack our Gross National Psychology. If they could fill our psyche with fear — as if the imagination of each one of us were Afghanistan and they were the Taliban — they could deprive us of the trust and confidence required for a free society to work. They could prevent us from ever again believing in a safe, decent or just world and from working to bring it about. By pillaging and plundering our peace of mind they could panic us into abandoning those unique freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of the press — that constitute the ability of democracy to self-correct and turn the ship of state before it hits the iceberg.
- Bill Moyers, Speech to the Society of Professional Journalists (11 September 2004).
- The freedom of speech and of the press, which are secured by the First Amendment against abridgment by the United States, are among the fundamental personal rights and liberties which are secured to all persons by the Fourteenth Amendment against abridgment by a state. The safeguarding of these rights to the ends that men may speak as they think on matters vital to them and that falsehoods may be exposed through the processes of education and discussion is essential to free government. Those who won our independence had confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning and communication of ideas to discover and spread political and economic truth.
- We have to uphold a free press and freedom of speech -- because, in the end, lies and misinformation are no match for the truth.
- The issue of press freedom is a constant concern in my interactions with the Chinese government. It’s an issue that I’ve raised with the President here in Burma. I’m pretty blunt and pretty frank about the fact that societies that repress journalists ultimately oppress people as well, and that if you want a society that is free and vibrant and successful, part of that formula is the free flow of information, of ideas, and that requires a free press. [...] And we believe that when governments censor or control information, that ultimately that undermines not only the society, but it leads to eventual encroachments on individual rights as well. [...] I brought up a basic principle that I stated earlier, which is that a free press is a foundation for any democracy. We rely on journalists to explain and describe the actions of our government. If the government controls the journalists, then it's very difficult for citizens to hold that government accountable.
- And as I’ve said elsewhere, a free press helps make a nation stronger and more successful, and it makes us leaders more effective because it demands greater accountability.
- For all time to come, the freedom and purity of the press are the test of national virtue and independence. No writer for the press, however humble, is free from the burden of keeping his purpose high and his integrity white.
- John Boyle O'Reilly, Quoted in Roche, James Jeffrey (1891). Life of John Boyle O'Reilly, together with his complete poems and speeches edited by Mrs John Boyle O'Reilly. New York. p195.
- At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is 'not done' to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was 'not done' to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.
- George Orwell, "The Freedom of the Press", unused preface to Animal Farm (1945), published in Times Literary Supplement (15 September 1972).
- Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary.
- The media ‘world view’ is, to use the correct word, imperial. That’s why news of East Timor is rarely found in what is known speciously as the ‘mainstream’; yet what has happened in East Timor in my lifetime is an instructive mirror of the struggles of much of humanity. [Likewise], Palestine is not reported truthfully because its oppressor, Israel, has been granted impunity by the West: [both] governments and media.
- If in other lands the press and books and literature of all kinds are censored, we must redouble our efforts here to keep them free.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address to the National Education Association (30 June 1938).
- A central lesson of science is that to understand complex issues (or even simple ones), we must try to free our minds of dogma and to guarantee the freedom to publish, to contradict, and to experiment. Arguments from authority are unacceptable.
- Carl Sagan Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millenium (1997) Chapter 14, "The Common Enemy".
- Woe to that nation whose literature is cut short by the intrusion of force. This is not merely interference with freedom of the press but the sealing up of a nation's heart, the excision of its memory.
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Nobel lecture prepared for the Swedish Academy, not actually delivered as an address (1970), variant translation, as quoted in TIME (25 February 1974). Another translations is "Woe to that nation whose literature is disturbed by the intervention of power. Because that is not just a violation against "freedom of print", it is the closing down of the heart of the nation, a slashing to pieces of its memory".
- In the governmental structure created by our Constitution, the Executive is endowed with enormous power in the two related areas of national defense and international relations. This power, largely unchecked by the Legislative  and Judicial  branches, has been pressed to the very hilt since the advent of the nuclear missile age. For better or for worse, the simple fact is that a President of the United States possesses vastly greater constitutional independence in these two vital areas of power than does, say, a prime minister of a country with a parliamentary form of government. In the absence of the governmental checks and balances present in other areas of our national life, the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in the areas of national defense and international affairs may lie in an enlightened citizenry — in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government. For this reason, it is perhaps here that a press that is alert, aware, and free most vitally serves the basic purpose of the First Amendment. For, without an informed and free press, there cannot be an enlightened people.
- Milne: No matter how imperfect things are, if you've got a free press everything is correctable, and without it everything is concealable.
Ruth: I'm with you on the free press. It's the newspapers I can't stand.
- Tom Stoppard, Night and Day (1978), Act I.
- A free press stands as one of the great interpreters between the government and the people. To allow it to be fettered is to fetter ourselves.
- George Sutherland, Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U.S. 233, 250 (1936).
- Freedom of the press in Britain means freedom to print such of the proprietor's prejudices as the advertisers don't object to.
- Hannen Swaffer, "Swaff": The Life and Times of Hannen Swaffer (1974), p. 28.
- There is no such a thing in America as an independent press, unless it is out in country towns. ...
- John Swinton in 1883, probably at the "Journalists' Gathering" in the rooms of the Twilight Club in the Mills Building, New York City, on April 12, 1883.
- Freedom of the press is the mortar that binds together the bricks of democracy - and it is also the open window embedded in those bricks.
- Shashi Tharoor, Speech at the UN's World Press Freedom Day (3 May 2001).
- There are laws to protect the freedom of the press's speech, but none that are worth anything to protect the people from the press.
- Mark Twain, License of the Press (1873).
- 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.
- Do we have a free press today? Sure we do. It’s free to report all the sex scandals it wants, all the stock market news we can handle, every new health fad that comes down the pike, and every celebrity marriage or divorce that happens. But when it comes to the real down and dirty stuff — stories like... corporate corruption, or CIA involvement in drug trafficking — that’s where we begin to see the limits of our freedoms. In today’s media environment, sadly, such stories are not even open for discussion. Back in 1938, when fascism was sweeping Europe, legendary investigative reporter George Seldes observed that “it is possible to fool all the people all the time — when government and press cooperate.” Unfortunately, we have reached that point. p. 156
- Gary Webb, Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press (2002)
- The liberty of the press is the birthright of a Briton, and is justly esteemed the firmest bulwark of the liberties of this country. It has been the terror of all bad ministers; for their dark and dangerous designs, of their weakness, inability, and duplicity, have thus been detected and shown to the public, generally in too strong and just colors for them to bear up against the odium of mankind. … A wicked and corrupt administration must naturally dread this appeal to the world; and will be for keeping all the means of information from the prince, parliament, and people.
The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)
- Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 159-161.
- My opinion of the liberty of the press is, that every man ought to be permitted to instruct his fellow subjects; that every man may fearlessly advance any new doctrines, provided he does so with proper respect to the religion and government of the country; that he may point out errors in the measures of public men; but he must not impute criminal conduct to them.
- Best, J., King v. Burdett (1820), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 120.
- The liberty of the press has always been, and has justly been, a favourite topic with Englishmen. They have looked at it with jealousy whenever it has been invaded; and though a licenser was put over the press, and was suffered to exist for some years after the coming of William, and after the revolution, yet the reluctant spirit of English liberty called for a repeal of that law; and from that time to this it has not been shackled and limited more than it ought to be.
- Lord Kenyon, Case of John Lambert and others (1793), 22 How. St. Tr. 1016.
- To be free, is to live under a government by law. The liberty of the -press consists in printing without any previous licence, subject to the consequences of law. The licentiousness of the press is Pandora's box, the source of every evil. Miserable is the condition of individuals, dangerous is the condition of the State, if there is no certain law, or, which is the same thing, no certain administration of law, to protect individuals or to guard the State.
- Lord Mansfield, King v. Shipley (1784), 3 Douglas's Rep. 170.
- Where vituperation begins, the liberty of the press ends.
- Best, J., King v. Burdett (1820), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 120.
- The liberty of the press is dear to England; the licentiousness of the press is odious to England: the liberty of it can never be so well protected as by beating down the licentiousness.
- Lord Kenyon, Cuthell's Case (1799), 27 How. St. Tr. 674.
- When licentiousness is tolerated, liberty is in the utmost danger; because tyranny, bad as it is, is better than anarchy; and the worst of governments is more tolerable than no government at all.
- Camden, L.C.J., Case of Seizure of Papers (1765), 19 How. St. Tr. 1074.
- The law of England is a law of liberty, and, consistently with this liberty, we have not what is called an imprimatur (let it be printed); there is no such preliminary licence necessary. But if a man publish a paper, he is exposed to the penal consequences, as he is in every other act, if it be illegal.
- Lord Ellenborough, R. v. Cobbett (1804), 29 How. St. Tr. 49.
- A man may publish anything which twelve of his countrymen think not blamable.
- Lord Kenyon, Cuthell's Case (1799), 27 How. St. Tr. 675.
- The power of free discussion is the right of every subject of this country. It is a right to the fair exercise of which we are indebted more than to any other that was ever claimed by Englishmen. All the blessings we at present enjoy might be ascribed to it.
- Lord Kenyon, King v. Reeves (1796), Peake's Nisi Prius Cases, 85.
- The liberty of the press is a very great advantage and security to our public liberty.
- Lord Mansfield, The King v. Williams (1774), Lofft. 763.
- The liberty of the press is no greater and no less than the liberty of every subject of the Queen.
- Lord Russell of Killowen, Reg. v. Gray (1900), L. R. 2 Q. B. D. 40.
- Alternative media
- Julian Assange
- First Amendment to the United States Constitution
- Freedom of assembly
- Freedom of religion
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment
- Mainstream media
- Mass media