05/29/2024
Free Speech

Freedom of the press or the media is the fundamental principle that communication and expression through various media, including printed and electronic media, primarily 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 the 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 for 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 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”.

This philosophy is usually accompanied by legislation ensuring various degrees of freedom of scientific research (known as scientific freedom), publishing, and the press. The depth to which these laws are entrenched in a country’s legal system can go as far down as its constitution. The concept of freedom of speech is often covered by the same laws as freedom of the press, thereby giving equal treatment to spoken and published expression. Freedom of the media was formally established in Great Britain with the lapse of the Licensing Act in 1695. Sweden was the first country in the world to adopt freedom of the press into its constitution with the Freedom of the Press Act of 1766.

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