The Rights of Journalism

How should we think about press freedom?

“It’s the newspapers I can’t stand”

In Tom Stoppard’s play Night and Day, one character remarks to another: “I’m with you on the free press. It's the newspapers I can't stand.” I don’t think that our discussions of the proper configuration of press freedom have moved very far from this impasse in the thirty years since the play was published. This is evident in the fruitless reiteration of rival claims about supposed speech rights, both by those who think the media – at least the print media – should be self-regulating, and that anything else will lead to censorship, and by those who think that the media – including the print media – should be restricted or regulated in various ways.

At present those who oppose regulation are particularly keen to counter any claims that any right to privacy should receive legal or regulatory protection at the expense of media freedom. For example, Paul Dacre has claimed robustly, but

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