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Freedom of the Press and the 1st Amendment

Updated on December 18, 2013

Freedom of the press is a right which is identified in the Constitution and as such journalists or any individual who is considered a journalist should be protected from government interference. There is much that happens between a journalist or news reporter and their source of information on which they are reporting. Today in certain states individuals who are part of the media in covering news stories which may be unpopular in terms of government reaction are protected from prosecution. This however, is not the case in all states. Freedom of the press is a clear term with respect to the Constitution. The exact words in Amendment 1 to the Constitution are provided below:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Freedom of the press is a right which should not be impacted by government action in response to news reports by a journalist. Reporters across the country broadcast or televise news events some of which involve sources for the information being reported. It is a bond which must be protected if we are to truly have freedom of the press. Along with this freedom journalists and the media must be conscience of issues involving national security. News reporting should not provide examples which would or will provide information to give our enemies ideas to attack us.

The relationship between a reporter and their source of a news story is a distinct relationship and there have been events where journalists have spent time in jail to protect their sources of information. Journalists and the media for that matter should never be faced with making a decision of protecting their sources or going to jail in conjunction with Amendment 1 to the Constitution. Many highly controversial issues are reported on by the news media and focusing on these events is something which the government wants to forget. Granted issues involving government operations and their investigation of issues are a responsibility of Congress but reporters should receive truthful answers when questions are asked. Reporters/journalists have a right to report news events which the public should know with the exception of national security information.

The words of Amendment 1 in reference to freedom of the press and other rights identify that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press. While government organizations may not necessarily like reports in the news or reports by certain media it is the freedom of the press that gives them this right. Our Constitution is the principle document upon which all our laws should be based at all levels of government. The Constitution not only identifies the rights we have in the Bill of Rights but in all the Amendments of the Constitution.

The Constitution is a living document which has been changed through the Amendment process. The rights identified in the Bill of Rights of which freedom of the press is included should never be subject to government intervention or prosecution. It is important that the public have free access to all events and operations of government at all levels and one of the sources of this information is through the right of freedom of the press. The media and the journalists who work for them should not be subject of government action to abridge or prohibit the freedom of the press. It is up to all media to report to the public which they feel they have a right to know. Recently is seems as the public gets more incensed about an issue or issues the media gets the hint and starts reporting the facts as they see them. The responsibility and exercise of the freedom of the press philosophy is an integral part of our society and any attempt to prohibit or restrict that right should be fought to the fullest extent of the law up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court. It is hoped that journalists, the media and any individual who is considered to be a journalist stand up for their rights in reporting or commenting on the facts as issues arise within any government operations.


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