Liberty to publish facts and opinion

Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the 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 constitutional or other legal protections.


Amendment I to the U.S. Constitution
"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom ... of the press ..."


Agenda for Liberty: A Biography of John Lilburne, by Jim Powell, The Triumph of Liberty, 4 Jul 2000
Lengthy biographical essay
"In 1625, King Charles I issued a proclamation making it illegal to publish or import a book without a license from the Bishop of London William Laud or the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford or Cambridge. ... Presbyterian Dr. John Bastwick was imprisoned and had his ears cut off for criticizing Church of England officials. ... William Prynne, a Presbyterian lawyer who had published many attacks on the Church of England, ... was fined, he was disbarred as a lawyer, he was condemned to life imprisonment in the Tower of London, his ears were hacked off, and his cheeks were branded with the initials 'SL' (for seditious libeller). "
Étienne de La Boétie, Part 2, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, May 2003
Examines major themes in La Boétie's "Discourse": custom (habit), control of information, buying off the people and withdrawal of consent
"After the majority had become accustomed to automatic obedience, the tyrant's main challenge was to reduce dissent. There were two basic means of doing so: by controlling the press and by monopolizing education, because 'books and teaching more than anything else give men the sense to comprehend their own nature and to detest tyranny.' In this manner, the tyrant prevented people from comparing the past with the present ... mystification ... was a second reason why people rendered automatic obedience — a regulated press and school system had convinced them that the ruler's authority was legitimate."
In Memory of the Charlie Hebdo Victims, by Sheldon Richman, 9 Jan 2015
Comments on the executions at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and the ensuing mainstream commentary
"Countless American officials and commentators have denounced these crimes as an attack on freedom of the press and speech, which they surely were. But the Obama administration hasn't exactly been respectful of those freedoms, as its pursuit of a record number of whistleblowers and harassment of reporters demonstrate. According to Reporters Without Borders, the United States now ranks 46th in press freedom, a fall from 33rd. (The United Kingdom is 33rd and France is 39th.)"
John Gilmore on inflight activism, spam and sarongs, by John Gilmore, Mikael Pawlo, GrepLaw, 18 Aug 2004
Topics discussed include: terrorism, the drug war, encryption, censorship, spam, the end-to-end principle, the right to travel, anonymity, secret FAA/TSA rules, blogs, copy protection, free software and the EFF
"Web publishing lets anybody say anything. ... Drug policy reform groups still can't buy billboard space without filing a lawsuit, but every single one of them has a web site and their audience knows where to find it. All kinds of information, from Bill Clinton's peccadillos to how British Government agents were assasinating people in Ireland, has come out despite overt or covert restrictions on prior forms of media. It is much harder for powerful people to suppress information than it was in 1990."
John Lilburne: The First English Libertarian, by Peter Richards, 29 Mar 2008
Detailed biographical essay of "Freeborn John" concluding with reasons to use the modern term "libertarian" for him
"A licensing law, enacted in 1586, existed to prevent the publication of seditious books and pamphlets; the authority for this rested with the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Bishop of London. Once licensed, a book needed to be registered with the Stationers Company before being printed. The Stationers Company had the powers to seize unregistered stock and arrest offenders, who would then be brought before the court of Star Chamber for trial. ... Lilburne ... came up with a plan to produce more copies by going to Holland, thus getting around the printing ban, and then smuggling copies back into England."
Liberty of the Press, by James Mill, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1823
"There is another use of the freedom of the press ... If any set of men are chosen to wield the powers of government, while the people have not the means of knowing in what manner they discharge their duties, they will have the means of serving themselves at the expence of the people; and all the miseries of evil government are the certain consequence."
Machiavelli and U.S. Politics, Part 4: War, by Lawrence M. Ludlow, 22 Aug 2005
Part of a six-segment series examining The Prince vis-à-vis contemporary U.S. politics; this article covers Machiavelli's simple advice on war and contrasts it with that of James Madison and Robert Higgs in Crisis and Leviathan
"With no consistent commitment to liberty, much of the press remains uncritical of constitutional violations. Instead, their chief concern is being cut off from inside sources of political gossip in retaliation for covering news stories that are critical of the administration. The specter of being frozen out of the loop is as frightening as having the government shut them down or arrest them, as Lincoln did to hundreds of newspapers and thousands of editors, legislators, and businessmen who disagreed with his policies. ... has anyone seen an al-Jazeera broadcast from Iraq lately? The U.S. military blew up its Baghdad office and killed a reporter there ..."
Milton, John (1608-1674), by Antony Flew, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"The Stationers' Company of London, representing the city's publishers, complained that the pamphlet had been published in violation of the recently passed 'Printing Ordinance,' which required all publications to be approved by government censors and licensed by the Stationers. Milton responded with his Areopagitica, a searing attack on censorship addressed directly to Parliament and written, he said, 'in order to deliver the press from the restraints with which it was encumbered ... that the power of determining what was true and what was false, what ought to be published and what to be suppressed, might no longer be entrusted to a few illiterate and illiberal individuals.'"
Not Just Japanese Americans: The Untold Story of U.S. Repression During 'The Good War', by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, The Journal of Historical Review, 1986
Detailed and well-annotated survey of United States government's repression of civil liberties during World War II, both before and after the attack on Pearl Harbor
"... the Office of Censorship ... examined all forms of communication entering or leaving the country — letters, cables, telephone calls, even films. ... The Office also drew up an ostensibly voluntary Code of Wartime Practices that applied to press and radio news reporting. The military engaged in its own independent censorship covering the news it released, ... the dispatches of war correspondents, and all media within conquered territories. When the isolationist Chicago Tribune innocently published too many details about the Battle of Midway, the Justice Department tried to prosecute. The grand jury refused to indict, however."
Pentagon Conduits, by Sheldon Richman, 25 Apr 2008
Discusses the revelations about TV news analysts briefed by the Pentagon and connected to military contractors, large and small
"This is not the first time the administration’s corruption of the news has been revealed. ... The latest story has gotten little notice outside the blogosphere. The television networks certainly have no interest in covering it. One might think that the major news organizations would be ashamed of themselves, but we're long past that point. They have been boosters of war for many years. They, along with the major newspapers, were little more than cheerleaders during the administration's run-up to the Iraq invasion. The Times was one of the biggest offenders. Who needs state-controlled media when you have a lapdog press?"
The Authority of a Foreign Talisman: A Study of U.S. Constitutional Practice as Authority in Nineteenth Century Argentina and the Argentine Elite's Leap of Faith, by Jonathan M. Miller, American University Law Review, Jun 1997
Examines the history of Argentine law prior to adoption of the 1853 Constitution, the arguments in Alberdi's Bases and the influence of the U.S. Constitution during the remainder of the 19th century and up to 1930
"In Sistema económico, all individual liberties in the 1853 Constitution were described in terms of the contribution they make to economic growth. For example, Alberdi argued that a free press is required because the press itself is a type of industry, because it improves productive techniques by spreading knowledge, and because it acts as a watchdog 'to denounce and combat . . . the errors and abuses which hinder industry.'"
The Central Question, by Charley Reese, 20 Jan 2007
"Self-government only works if the people have access to the truth. If they are lied to and propagandized instead of informed, then they, in fact, live in a dictatorship, though one carefully disguised by their controllers. That's why Thomas Jefferson said that newspapers that whore for political parties or other interests are no different than newspapers controlled by a government."
The Land of the Free, by H. L. Mencken, 12 Jan 1925
Relates the story of Italian-American newspaper owner Carlo Tresca and his travails for daring to criticise the Italian Fascists
"The little two-line advertisement of September 8, announcing a book in Italian on birth control, showed the way. Experienced witch-hunters from the Department of Justice were rushed to New York, Tresca was indicted for advertising a means of preventing conception, and his trial was called in hot haste. ... other charges were mixed up with the complaint. One was the he had printed an article entitled 'Down With the Monarchy.' This was plainly not illegal, but the prosecution made much of it."
Related Topic: United States
The Post Office as a Violation of Constitutional Rights, by Wendy McElroy, The Freeman, May 2001
Prompted by the announcement of the U.S. Postal Service eBillPay service (now discontinued), surveys the history of mail service vis-à-vis civil rights, from colonial days to the present
"Second, freedom of the press included—and, indeed, required—the right to privately distribute material to whoever wished to read it. A government postal monopoly would be able to ban periodicals from using virtually the only legal channels of distribution. This control constituted a direct affront to the First Amendment. ... In 1797, with the new Constitution in force, Congress enacted the first law limiting what could be mailed. It was a modest prohibition against newspapers with wet print being posted because they tended to damage accompanying mail. But the definition of 'unmailable' soon acquired political meaning."
The Second Superpower is the Real Fourth Estate, by Kevin Carson, 28 Jun 2013
Explains the term the "Fourth Estate", how the current fourth estate are simply stenographers and who are supplanting them as true journalists, as per James Moore's idea of a "Second Superpower"
"The one unforgivable sin, for a respectable professional journalist in the so-called "Fourth Estate," is to supplement one’s careful stenography of what "both sides" said with an independent factual investigation as to whether it's true or not. What "both sides" say must speak for itself. If one side lies, and the other side doesn't challenge it, it's not the reporter's job to tell readers what the truth is. If "both sides" actually agree on many of the structural assumptions of the current system, the existing structure of power will not be called into question by respectable journalism."

Cartoons and Comic Strips

All's Well ..., by Joel Pett, Lexington Herald-Leader, 11 Jul 2006
Non Sequitur, by Wiley Miller, 22 Aug 2004
"What happened to freedom of the press?!! "
No Peeky!, by Dwane Powell, 25 Dec 2008
Somebody Get the Lawyers Workin' on this Freedom of the Press Thing!, by Drew Sheneman
You Are Under Arrest, by Tom Toles, The Washington Post, 21 Aug 2006

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Freedom of the press" as of 9 Nov 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.