FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN NEWSPAPERS
Freedom of the press allows for the free flow of ideas, information, and opinions without constraints, interference, or prosecution by the governments. In Branzburg v Hayes (1972), freedom of expression was considered a fundamental personal right, not limited to periodicals and newspapers. Every publication that sparks conversations encourages the free flow of ideas and is a communication vehicle that should be inspired. Freedom of expression should also be extended to movies, books, newspapers, and video games.
The distribution of newspapers should not be confined to one area. Distribution should be encouraged to allow free flow of information, education to masses, entertainment, and critiquing of government decisions. Journalists and news reporters should be granted the freedom to seek, receive, or impart information or ideas, freedom of artistic creativity, and freedom to do research. Journalists and media personnel are protected by the media shield laws that encourage Free Press and Free Speech. New reporters, authors, publishers, and columnists can write and present information accurately, free, and unrestricted.
However, there are instances where freedom of expression may be limited, for example, when news reporters and publishers receive information from a confidential source that violates federal law. A reporter cannot be protected by Free press and Free Speech if he/she receives information from a confidential source that violates federal law. In 2005, Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter, served 85 days jail term because she refused to reveal a confidential source who has violated federal law by revealing a CIA agent’s identity. Also, in Branzburg v Hayes (1972), the judge held that a news reporter might receive confidential information, but such information should not violate federal law. If it violates federal law, the news reporter may be subpoenaed or required to state the confidential source’s names.
Secondly, News reporter’s freedom of expression may be limited when he/she publishes defamatory material. Defamation is the act of causing injury to a person’s reputation by the spoken or written word. When published in newspapers, defamation is referred to as libel. To claim that they have been defamed, they must prove actual malice by the news reporter and injury incurred by them as a result of the defamation.
Obscenity is another limitation of the freedom of expression in newspapers. Material published in newspapers should be acceptable to an average citizen in the community. Material is considered obscene if it is offensive to an average member of society. In cases where the material is improper, a news reporter may be required to strike it out.
Publishing material designed to incite unlawful activity or immediate violence also limits the freedom of expression. Material aimed at breaching peace is prohibited, as was held in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942). In Brandenburg v Ohio (1969), the Court ruled that expression can be limited if it promotes lawless actions and initiates and spikes violence.
In conclusion, the freedom of expression in newspapers exists and should be encouraged to allow the free flow of information, opinions, and ideas without interference, constraints, and government prosecution. However, in some situations, the freedom can be limited if: it incites violence and breach of peace, is defamatory, violates federal law, and is obscene.
Brandenburg v. Ohio 395 U.S 444 (1969)
Branzburg v Hayes 408 U.S 665 (1972)
Chaplinksy v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S 568 (1942)
Dave Ross (2020), Are There Limits to Freedom of the Press in the U.S? Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_the_press_in_the_United_States
Sam Lebovic (2017), The Inadequacy of the American Press Freedom, The American Historian. Available at https://www.oah.org/tah/issues/2018/august/the-inadequacy-of-american-press-freedom/
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