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Journalism: Legal Situation

Sandra Davidson

Subject Law
Communication and Media Studies » Communication Studies
Media System » Communication Law and Policy

Key-Topics rights

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


“Knowledge is power,” said English lawyer and philosopher Francis Bacon (1561–1626). But sometimes journalists have the knowledge while the government has the power. This can lead to clashes that, unfortunately for journalists, can sometimes lead to imprisonment and even death (→  Violence against Journalists ). While civil libel suits against journalists remain the media's biggest financial danger, that danger pales in comparison to loss of freedom or life (→  Libel and Slander ). Traditions of press freedom are not universal (→  Freedom of the Press, Concept of ). Stifling ideas by stifling those who wield pens has been common in closed societies but has also occurred in societies known for openness. Dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn languished in prison in the Gulag Archipelago before the fall of the Soviet Union. But the United States has stifled expression of opinions as well. While the First Amendment of the US Constitution proclaims: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” that freedom has not proved absolute. When government believes that ideas threaten its existence, then government is tempted to wield its power. In February 2007, an Egyptian appeals court overturned the one-year jail sentence of Ibrahim Eissa, a newspaper editor convicted of libeling President Hosni Mubarak. He had to pay a fine instead. In April 2007, Azerbaijani ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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