Transparency is key to the American way of life. Today, here at home and around the world … the struggle is intense to control information and to shape perceptions about what is true. A lack of transparency ultimately feeds corruption which is one of the hardest issues that states have to face Independent investigative journalism is an ally of open society and thereby enhances the effectiveness, and thence the legitimacy, of development processes.
Freedom of the press protects the right to obtain and publish information or opinions without government censorship or fear of punishment. Censorship occurs when the government examines publications and productions and prohibits the use of material it finds offensive. Freedom of press applies to all types of printed and broadcast material, including books, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, films and radio and television programs.
The Constitution’s framers provided the press with broad freedom. This freedom was considered necessary to the establishment of a strong, independent press sometimes called “the fourth branch” of the government. An independent press can provide citizens with a variety of information and opinions on matters of public importance. However, freedom of press sometimes collides with other rights, such as a defendant’s right to a fair trial or a citizen’s right to privacy. In recent years, there has been increasing concern about extremely aggressive journalism, including stories about people’s sexual lives and photographs of people when they were in a private setting.
Reports of journalists being arrested, being unfairly mishandled and
In the United States, the government may not prevent the publication of a newspaper, even when there is reason to believe that it is about to reveal information that will endanger our national security. By the same token, the government local nor federal cannot:
- Pass a law that requires newspapers to publish information against their will.
- Impose criminal penalties, or civil damages, on the publication of truthful information about a matter of public concern or even on the dissemination of false and damaging information about a public person except in rare instances.
- Impose taxes on the press that it does not levy on other businesses.
- Compel journalists to reveal, in most circumstances, the identities of their sources.
- Prohibit the press from attending judicial proceedings and thereafter informing the public about them.
Newsworthy events often occur in public places such as streets, sidewalks or parks. Since these places are open to the public and few restrictions are placed on the activities that take place in them, they are considered public forums. Radio and television broadcasters has an obligation to operate in the public interest. This generally accepted principle was reflected in a rule known as the Fairness Doctrine. The rule, formally adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949, required all broadcasters to devote a reasonable amount of time to the discussion of controversial matters of public interest. It further required broadcasters to air contrasting points of view regarding those matters. The Fairness Doctrine arose from the idea imbedded in the First Amendment that the wide dissemination of information from diverse and even antagonistic sources is essential to the public welfare and to a healthy democracy.
It is also significant to note that studies have shown that high corruption rates, more often than not, correlate to the low level of press freedom. Make sure to read:
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