The press freedom myth


Heawood J (2020) The press freedom myth. European Human Rights Law Review, 2020 (1), pp. 7-11.

In this Point of View, I explain my conversion from press freedom fundamentalist to press regulator. I set out the ethical concerns that led me to question my absolute faith in press freedom and show how the classical liberal foundations for press freedom dissolve upon close examination. Press freedom is conventionally justified by reference to the values of truth, democracy and self-realisation. I argue that, whilst these values are worth striving for, an absolute form of press freedom provides no guarantee that they will be achieved. This is true in relation both to the ‘old’ media (newspapers, broadcasters, etc.) and the ‘new’ media (social media platforms, search engines, etc.). I conclude that press freedom (which is characterised by an absence of rules) does not serve society, whilst journalism (which is characterised by rules such as fact-checking) does; and I suggest five principles for a media policy framework that protects journalism rather than press freedom as such.

Freedom of expression; Journalism; Press; Regulation; Social media

European Human Rights Law Review: Volume 2020, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/2020