A Free Press
In a democracy the press should operate free from governmental control.
Democratic governments do not have ministries of information to regulate content
of newspapers or the activities of journalists; requirements that journalists be
vetted by the state; or force journalists to join government-controlled unions.
A free press informs the public, holds leaders accountable, and provides a forum
for debate of local and national issues.
• Democracies foster the existence of a free press. An independent judiciary,
civil society with rule of law, and free speech all support a free press. A free
press must have legal protections.
• In democracies the government is accountable for its actions. Citizens
therefore expect to be informed about decisions their governments make on their
behalf. The press facilitates this “right to know,” by serving as a watchdog
over the government, helping citizens to hold government accountable, and
questioning its policies. Democratic governments grant journalists access to
public meetings and public documents. They do not place prior restraints on what
journalists may say or print.
• The press, itself, must act responsibly. Through professional associations,
independent press councils, and "ombudsmen," in-house critics who hear public
complaints, the press responds to complaints of its own excesses and remains
• Democracy requires the public to make choices and decisions. In order for the
public to trust the press, journalists must provide factual reporting based on
credible sources and information. Plagiarism and false reporting are
counterproductive to a free press.
• Press outlets should establish their own editorial boards, independent of
government control, in order to separate information gathering and dissemination
from editorial processes.
• Journalists should not be swayed by public opinion, only by the pursuit of
truth, as close as they can get to it. A democracy allows the press to go about
its business of collecting and reporting the news without fear or favor from the
• Democracies foster a never-ending struggle between two rights: The
government's obligation to protect national security; and the people's right to
know, based on journalists’ ability to access information. Governments sometimes
need to limit access to information considered too sensitive for general
distribution. But journalists in democracies are fully justified in pursuing