Freedom of the Press in Whoville

To use the expression Freedom of the Press is to raise a lot of questions. Since we’ve recently been reading a book set in and around Whoville, I’ll focus here on some of the Who? questions.

One such question is: who constitutes the press? One answer is that: We’re All Journalists Now. That’s the argument made by Tom Keane in the Boston Globe a week ago.

Freedom of the press now seems like a special privilege that applies not to us but to distant, powerful, and impenetrable corporations.

Admittedly, the growth of big media… makes this thinking easy. Yet technology is changing that. Anyone with an Internet connection can now not only be a reporter, but a publisher as well (blogs… being obvious examples). Increasingly, media are becoming more democratized – and more like what the Founding Fathers envisioned.

That is, of course, a very American way of casting the argument, referring as it does to the Founding Fathers and, elsewhere in the article, to the First Amendment. I’d like to think that freedom of speech for all, including “the media” isn’t a specifically American value.

Which leads me to cast an international net, and to pose the second question. Who cares about freedom of the press? A study conducted for the BBC suggests that the answer varies greatly from county to country.

Of those interviewed, 56% thought that freedom of the press was very important to ensure a free society.

But 40% said it was more important to maintain social harmony and peace, even if it meant curbing the press’s freedom to report news truthfully.

For the holiday season, and for the new year, I wish you freedom of speech and of the press.

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