Freedom of Speech is Not the same as Freedom of the Press

We are now being bombarded with a campaign by the press, recently chastened by corruption and illegality. The campaign is for freedom of speech, but freedom of speech is not the same as freedom of the press. There is a small overlap. I shall explain.

Freedom of speech is about protecting people’s right to proclaim their ideas. The press actually censor people’s right to communicate their ideas, according to the parameters of what the press think is right and proper and what the press think will not cost them money. I cannot imagine any large circulation newspaper giving proper space to someone who wishes to promulgate racism or to campaign against homosexuality but they will give space to other who wish to promulgate other ideas which some may find equally offensive.

In the sense that I have explained the press should be free to publish whatever ideas they think fit, just as I am free to publish in these essays, ideas that I think fit. The press inevitably censors itself and others, just as it occasionally misquotes some people and gives a very false impression of what their ideas are.

There is no freedom to write about someone libellously nor is there a freedom to start a hate campaign against someone who is accused of serious crime, thus prejudicing the prospect of a fair trial and from time to time portraying an entirely innocent person as some kind of monster. There is no freedom to ruin someone living without cause. There is no freedom to harass someone in the news by camping outside his or her home and getting up to all sorts of tricks in order to get a picture or a statement that will sell a few more newspapers.

The rub of the matter is this; mostly the press comprises people who publish newspapers in order to make money from the sales of the papers and from the advertising revenue. If a newspaper loses money decade after decade I find it hard to understand how that newspaper can continue to publish. No doubt there is some money connected reason why loss making papers still thrive. Papers are influential and influence can easily generate money indirectly and in copious amounts. The press complain about the libel laws but until the advent of “no win no fee” cases, the category of people who most frequently sued for libel was journalists.

Perhaps if the press had not grossly intruded into the lives of people by hacking and stalking or interfering with or misrepresenting police investigations we would not be having this debate. If they had concentrated on exposing vice or folly properly instead of sensationalising a story we might have to read longer newspaper stories which fairly set out what has happened as unexciting that might be and as un-conducive to selling advertising space that might be.

We must protect freedom of speech at all costs; even if we vehemently disagree with what someone says we must be prepared to fight to the death to protect their right to express their ideas. I cannot see the British press doing that. What I see them attempting to protect is press freedom by which they mean the right to publish whatever they perceive to be in the public interest including things that interest the public and things that injure people without just cause.

Freedom of speech is an alienable human right that transcends the law of the land; freedom of the press is the right to operate a business and as such must operate within the law of the land. If the press so injures you, it is certain that under the present system it will be hard to get prompt redress, and so we must rebalance the scales of justice so they weight evenly and fairly. If that means a restriction on press freedom without restricting freedom of speech, then so be it.

5 Responses

  1. Then there is the freedom of the forum and the blogger, yet this portal is being policed by a Totalitarian Tiptoe by the Blues and Royals of the electronic age and batton, good old Face value and Tweeting can get you into trouble. This fella brought up the subject so many years ago and nobody was listening.

    Women were once drowned for voicing their opinions, today it is an electronic and electric shock to discover the same actions are being clamped down upon as hate crimes.

    Austrailia has managed to bring about a colonial experiment towards free speach of late, the same will be inserted here in the Uk once the model is honed if the masses continue to slumber.

    This always happens at the end of an era and at the beginning of the new world orders or ages, as in Roman and British empires.

    I have never bought a newspaper in my life.

    The right and title of the female now prevails in Icelandic rule.

  2. Rob, I think you mean “freedom of speech is an inalienable human right”, ie not transferable.

    Other than that it seems to me that many parts of the political class want to exchange self imposed press censorship for government imposed press censorship.

    I know which I would choose.

  3. […] Freedom of Speech is Not the same as Freedom of the Press […]

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