chapter  2
18 Pages

Freedom of speech and the journalistic impulse

The previous chapter was primarily concerned with examining the various philosophical defences of freedom of speech. This chapter connects the theories of freedom of speech with the notion of freedom of the press. In essence the chapter outlines the historical connection between the development of journalism and the idea of freedom of the press and how these have come to relate to the principles of freedom of speech and expression. The argument presented here, as throughout this book, is that though the philosophical arguments which provide the intellectual ammunition for freedom of speech and freedom of the press are compelling, the full realisation of these ideals has been limited in practice. This chapter explores some of the historical reasons for this lack of connection and suggests that journalism history should do more to take into account the fracture between the ideal and the practice of press freedom. This chapter then attempts to examine the history of what we now understand as

journalism in a way that stresses how journalism has historically been connected to ideas about principles of freedom of speech and expression. This is not to say that other

important factors and principles have no bearing on the development of what we now call journalism. Rather, I suggest that in order to appreciate the relationship between journalism, press freedom and freedom of speech, some historical insight is required which details the way in which principles of freedom of speech and freedom of the press have became so central to the Western liberal democratic tradition. I should point out that I do not intend to posit a particular definition of journalism,

as history demonstrates this would be folly; one only need reflect on the relatively recent transformations within journalism – the Blogosphere and the impact of Twitter – to become aware of the open-ended character of journalism as professional and social practice, what Deuze calls ‘liquid journalism’ (Deuze 2006; see also Deuze 2005). What we find when we explore this historical aspect of journalism is that the debate about what journalism is and should be is not a modern phenomenon but has been a central feature of mediated public discourse for centuries. The chapter proceeds with an overview of the rise of censorship and control of

print during the Tudor period. To be sure, though this period did not invent censorship, the imperative to control print as a mechanism to manage politics more effectively became tightly bonded to the institutions of power. The chapter then goes on to focus on the English Civil War and particularly its legacy, with Milton providing a significant intellectual contribution to conceptions of press freedom during these turbulent times. Then the chapter moves on to explore further the emergence of the public sphere and the American and French Revolutions which galvanised the connection between the political realm and principles of press freedom, particularly in relation to the press as the fourth estate. Finally the chapter moves on to examine the development of press freedom in Britain and emphasises the very narrow conception of press freedom that emerged, a conception that remains largely intact today.