When it come to the government policy and democracy is unrestricted freedom of the press the best policy? When it come to the government policy and democracy is unrestricted freedom of the press...
When it come to the government policy and democracy is unrestricted freedom of the press the best policy?
A very topical discussion of this issue can take place with the current controversy regarding Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange. An excerpt from his website helps to explain what he is doing and how it ties into the question. Regarding the decision to publish thousands of previously confidential diplomatic cables, the website states that, "This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes." In the end, this becomes the critical issue behind why proponents believe in unrestricted freedom of the press. It is seen as the "fourth branch" of government that allows individuals a chance to properly question their government and ensure that it is following the will of the people. At the same time, there are an equal number of people that believe that the media should not be unlimited in its reach. For example, there are many who believe that what Assange and Wikileaks has done in publishing these diplomatic cables amounts to espionage and giving aid and comfort to the enemy, hampering diplomacy to work in an uncertain future. For these individuals, unrestricted freedom of the press is akin to irresponsibility and unseen consequences for national security. As seen with the recent controversy, the battle rages on and perhaps, this is a testament to how powerful the question is that there can be no definitive answers provided.
I do think it is important for the press to be unfettered. Historically, the free press has been crucial to democracy. This is why it was included in the constitution as an amendment. I think that the free press moves beyond the government though. When newspapers are owned by media conglomerates, there really is not a free press. The Internet may be free, but there is no fact-checking. An uninhibited press can be just as bad as a controlled one. Think of people whose lives have been ruined by false, uncorroborated reports pulled off the Internet.
I think the problem of unrestricted freedom of the press comes when we have members of the press who will do anything to get a headline. In today's competitive world of news agencies it is sometimes more important to them to get the story out first and check facts later. Unrestricted freedom was probably not as bad when there were only two or three news outlets.