We have been struggling to free our newspapers from the despotism of state governments around the world for centuries. “Perhaps as early as the 8th Century the press was considered exclusively a tool for enhancing the power and legitimacy of the ruling bureaucracies” (Keane, John, 1991. ‘The media and democracy’:p8).
Essentially, what a government controlled press did for the individuals in power was censor and control output and circulation of the press. Governments worked in favour of the respectable press by influencing them with exclusive information about government doings and agendas, offering official advertisements as well as giving direct money to finance the production and circulation of the press. “The chief methods by which governments could influence the press – a direct subsidy, official advertisements, and priority of intelligence” (Asquith, 1975:p721 Cited by Curran, James, 2002. ‘Media and Power’:p79).
In return, governments could monitor output, and control criticisms and what’s said about government, effectively censoring knowledge from the public, which could be of great importance regarding the publics well-being and right to know in a democratic nation.
A free press is a non-biased, open and flexible form of medium, which is supportive of a democratic nation by giving the people a choice and a chance to speak and to be heard. It also supports the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which states “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech or of the press (15th December, 1791)” (Keane, 1991:p4).
The free press attempts to put down the power of the state and expose their despotism, with the use of ‘Watchdogs’ for the good of the public and democracy. Public’s thoughts and opinion within the free press attempt to direct their thoughts toward the state powers in order to expose their secrecy and censorship. “In modern times, public opinion expressed through an independent free press breaks down the dark, unreasonable secrecy of ‘unproven imaginings, beliefs or authority” (Keane, 1999:p21).
Freely circulating opinions within the press is a quality of great proportion. It not only puts our opinions across to the state power, but it allows the public to think and look at certain opinions in a different matter or perspective. Freely circulating opinions allow the truth and reasoning of an issue or debate reach the surface, gently, by means of moral interaction with other civil members of the public, which slowly unmasks the problem of censorship in this way. “Only a free press can guarantee that there is an abundant supply of facts and arguments about the facts, this cultivating the habit of questioning and correcting opinions and ensuring the victory of truth over falsehood” (Keane, 1991:p20).
The free press in this light, allowing the public’s opinion to be freely spoken, is how the democratic nation works. “Whether it is called a public forum, or a public sphere, or a market place of ideas, the reality of open and free public discussion and debate was considered central to the operation of our democracy” (Gore, 2008:p12). Freely circulating opinion breaks down the despotism of state onslaught of self-centred opinions, to a mixed opinions of feelings and thoughts, which not only allows the public the freedom to speak, but to also think and make their own decision for the democratic good.