Factors affecting Freedom of the Press


    FOLLOWING on the broadsheet on the state of the press in Great Britain, issued by Political and Economic Planning in 1935, the Press group of P.E.P. has now issued a further broadcast on the freedom of the press. Besides the various legal factors, such as the law of libel, which restrict publication in the press, there are other equally potent influences which may act in restraint of publication, such as advertizing influence, the private policy of a proprietor, or the pressure of public or semi-public bodies may be exerted in various ways which make it more and more difficult to voice emphatically the grievance of an individual or group against authority and monopoly. While absolute freedom of the press is neither possible nor desirable, there are strong arguments for keeping restrictions and external pressure of every kind to a minimum. Moreover, the selection or rejection of news for a newspaper is still mainly determined not by external influences, however powerful, but by the character and outlook of journalists. Where they are content to follow the line of least resistance, giving prominence to trivialities, and evading or ignoring important subjects and points of view that are unpopular or likely to arouse powerful opposition, the control of the press will in fact be determined by the barriers erected against free discussion, with fatal results. Bad journalism begins by driving out good and may end by causing the imposition of restrictions so severe that good, critical, informed and independent journalism is impossible. On the other hand, independent, courageous journalism creates and commands the admiration of independent and courageous people who are powerful enough to support it and defend it. The fate of the press is bound up with the fate of democracy, and in any type of State the press will have to fight harder to justify its existence against competition and encroachments of many kinds.

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    Factors affecting Freedom of the Press. Nature 138, 795 (1936). https://doi.org/10.1038/138795b0

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