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Freedom of Press and Its Importance in the American Way of Life Essay

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The Frist Amendment (1791) to the Constitution of the United States (“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”) holds the importance of the freedom of speech and press as one of the most basic rights of US citizens and reporters in the process of upholding a democratic society. Freedom of expression; the ability of people to communicate their feelings and thoughts effectively, without fear of being silenced, is a titanic right the people of the United States possess and is not something that came to them so easily. Neither is the Freedom of the Press; to report on everything that is true, of importance to public knowledge and decision making and reflects on the actions of the government and in effect may hold it responsible in the eyes of the people it serves. Initially however, when British colonists were still in power over the now established region of the United States, censorship (people not being allowed to say what they wanted, particularly in criticism of the Crown or its empowered subjects) was upheld as a right of the crown, a belief necessary to maintaining a controlled empire.
In 1734 however, the first instance of breaking away from British law and emerging towards an American law that propagated a “freedom to print/ publish criticism of the government” occurred when John Peter Zenger published criticism against the colonial governor of New York, William Cosby, in his newspaper The New York Weekly Journal. Zenger was arrested (under the 18th Century British Sedition Law), but was set free once the jury acquitted him based on the argument made by his attorneys that imprisoning him for fairly and truthfully criticizing the government was not the right way to promote justice.
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...s nature of the information. However, the government later dropped the case and the injunction was lifted, allowing the printing of the article as other private sources had already started to disseminate the information.
The Freedom of the Press, as granted by the First Amendment, allows the Press great privileges, only a few of which have been discussed in this paper. Regardless of the open scope of the topic, it is irrefutable that the Press enjoys a vast amount of power and freedom in what it can and cannot do, and what it does or doesn’t have a right to. The mere fact that the cases discussed above are 5 in favor of the press and 3 not in favor, whereas 3 of the 5 cases are defamation cases, reflects on the actual state of how free the press really is in the American society, and how important the First Amendment and its purpose is to the American way of life.




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