Freedom of the press is not just a "nice to have" thing. It has a tremendous effect on a country's economic health and its citizens' quality of life.
A 2008 UNESCO report titled "Press Freedom and Development" analyzed the correlations between a country's cultural and economic opportunities and its press freedom. Their findings? "A free press always has a positive influence whether it be on poverty and its different aspects (monetary poverty and access to primary commodities, health and education), on governance or on violence and conflict issues," the report authors wrote. The report found press freedom positively correlated with income level, with government spending on health, and with education enrolment at the primary and secondary levels. Press freedom also correlated positively with lower spending on the military.
When the press holds a government accountable, it makes the government's actions more transparent, creating an environment that's conducive to growing businesses and improving people's standard of living. The press can also inform the government of the wants and needs of the people. If the roads are in bad shape and the newspaper keeps reporting that fact, it may spur action. The reporting could also keep disgruntled citizens from taking matters into their own hands and storming the government buildings. A 2013 study analyzed press freedom and economic growth in 115 countries and found a "bidirectional relationship."
A free press is also good for social services. "No country has a free press and a very high percentage of people with no access to safe water or a high percentage suffering from malnutrition," writes researcher Menelaos Agaloglou in the Africa Report, referring to data in the UNESCO report. "Improvement in press freedom is associated with a drop in infant mortality and an increase in life expectancy at birth as well as general increase on the health status of the population. By allowing debate and different opinions to be heard the country becomes more stable, less violent and more democratic."
Author's Note: How Freedom of the Press Works
I will not be jailed for writing this story (I hope) even though I included one or two rather unflattering comments about America's current commander-in-chief. It's one of the glorious benefits of a free society in which self-expression can run wild with few fears of reprisals. Hopefully, someday, the rest of humanity will be able to share their thoughts just as freely without fear of losing their livelihoods ... or their lives.
More Great Links
- Amiel, Sandrine and Said-Moorhouse, Lauren. "Duchess of Cambridge Topless Photos were Invasion of Privacy." CNN. Sept. 5, 2017. (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/05/europe/uk-royals-photo-controversy/index.html
- Chemaly, Soraya. "Fake News and Online Harassment are More than Social Media Byproducts – They're Powerful Profit Drivers." Salon. Dec. 17, 2016. [Oct. 24, 2017]. https://www.salon.com/2016/12/17/fake-news-and-online-harassment-are-more-than-social-media-byproducts-theyre-powerful-profit-drivers/
- Chokshi, Niraj. "How to Fight 'Fake News' (Warning: It isn't Easy). The New York Times. Sept. 18, 2017. [Oct. 24, 2017]. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/18/business/media/fight-fake-news.html
- Committee to Protect Journalists. "Eritrea Most Censored Country in the World." April 21, 2015. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://cpj.org/2015/04/eritrea-most-censored-country-in-the-world.php
- Cooper, Michael and Roberts, Sam. "After 40 Years, the Complete Pentagon Papers." The New York Times. June 7, 2011. (Oct. 24, 2017). http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/08/us/08pentagon.html
- Ellerbeck, Alexandra. "Journalists Covering Standing Rock Face Charges as Police Arrest Protesters." Committee to Protect Journalists. Feb. 17, 2017. (Oct. 24, 2017). https://cpj.org/blog/2017/02/journalists-covering-standing-rock-face-charges-as.php
- Ewen, Margaux. Advocacy and Communications Director at Reporters Without Borders, personal interview. Sept. 27, 2017.
- Faiola, Anthony and Kirchner, Stephanie. "How do you Stop Fake News? In Germany, with a Law." Chicago Tribune. April 5, 2017. (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-fake-news-law-germany-20170405-story.html
- Freedom House. "Press Freedom's Dark Horizon." (Sept. 27, 2017). https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/freedom-press-2017
- Freedom House. "United States Profile." (Sept. 27, 2017). https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2017/united-states
- Gammon, Katherine. "Freedom of the Press." LiveScience. June 29, 2012. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://www.livescience.com/21312-freedom-of-the-press.html
- Gidda, Mirra and Schonfeld, Zach. "Donald Trump's Threat to Press Freedom: Why it Matters." Newsweek. Nov. 12, 2016. (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.newsweek.com/2016-election-donald-trump-press-freedom-first-amendment-520389
- Gill, Kathy. "Definition of the Fourth Estate." ThoughtCo. March 26, 2017. (Oct. 24, 2017). https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-fourth-estate-3368058
- Grant, Michael. "Free Speech and Free Press are not the Same: One has Standards." La Mesa Patch. March 28, 2011. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://patch.com/california/lamesa/free-speech-and-free-press-are-not-the-same-one-has-standards
- The Guardian. "Germany Approves Plans to Fine Social Media Firms up to 50m." June 30, 2017. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jun/30/germany-approves-plans-to-fine-social-media-firms-up-to-50m
- Guseva, et al. "Press Freedom and Development." UNESCO. 2008. (Oct. 24, 2017). http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0016/001618/161825e.pdf
- Hirst, Martin. "Right to Know: the Nation, the 'People,' and the Fourth Estate." The Conversation. Dec. 10, 2013. (Sept. 27, 2017). http://theconversation.com/right-to-know-the-nation-the-people-and-the-fourth-estate-21253
- History.com. "Galileo in Rome for Inquisition." (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/galileo-in-rome-for-inquisition
- Kalb, Marvin. "The Trumpian Threat to Freedom of the Press." The Hill. August 15, 2017. (Sept. 27, 2017). http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/the-administration/346492-the-trumpian-threat-to-freedom-of-the-press
- Kingsley, Patrick. "It's Not at War, but up to 3% of its People Have Fled. What is Going on in Eritrea?" The Guardian. July 22, 2015. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/22/eritrea-migrants-child-soldier-fled-what-is-going
- Kingsley, Patrick. "Eritrea has Committed Widespread Crimes Against Humanity, says U.N." The Guardian. June 8, 2016. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/08/un-commission-eritrea-international-criminal-court-hague
- Levin, Sam. "Over 120 Arrested at North Dakota Pipeline Protests, Including Journalists." The Guardian. Oct. 25, 2016. (Oct. 24, 2017). https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/25/north-dakota-oil-pipeline-protest-arrests-journalists-filmmakers
- Lister, Tim. "Freedom of the Press and the Dangers of Provocation." CNN. January 7, 2015. (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/07/europe/paris-attack-and-press-freedom/index.html
- Maheshwari, Sapna. "How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study." The New York Times. November 20, 2016. (Oct. 24, 2017). https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/business/media/how-fake-news-spreads.html?
- Meyer, Robinson. "U.S. Court: Bloggers are Journalists." The Atlantic. January 21, 2014. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/01/us-court-bloggers-are-journalists/283225/
- Mong, Attila. "Countering Fake News While Safeguarding Free Speech." DW Akademie. March 14, 2017. (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.dw.com/en/countering-fake-news-while-safeguarding-free-speech/a-37924278
- Newseum Institute. "New Website Tracks Press Freedom Abuses in the U.S." August 2, 2017. (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.newseuminstitute.org/2017/08/02/new-website-tracks-press-freedom-abuses-in-the-u-s/
- New World Encyclopedia. "Freedom of the Press." (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Freedom_of_the_press
- NPR. "What Legal Recourse do Victims of Fake News Stories Have?" Dec. 7, 2016. (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.npr.org/2016/12/07/504723649/what-legal-recourse-do-victims-of-fake-news-stories-have
- Packer, George. "Why the Press is Less Free Today." New Yorker. November 13, 2014. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/press-freedom-new-censorship
- PBS. "The War at Home." (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.pbs.org/thewar/at_home_communication_news_censorship.htm
- Porter, Tom. "Trump Administration Threatens Freedom of the Press in New Leaks Crackdown." Newsweek. Aug. 5, 2017. (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.newsweek.com/trump-administration-goes-after-press-new-leaks-crackdown-646908
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "Shield Laws and Protection of Sources by State." (Oct. 24, 2017). https://www.rcfp.org/browse-media-law-resources/guides/reporters-privilege/shield-laws
- Reporters Without Borders. "2017 World Press Freedom Index." (Sept. 27, 2017). https://rsf.org/en/ranking
- Reporters Without Borders. "United States." (Sept. 27, 2017). https://rsf.org/en/united-states
- Reporters Without Borders. "Predators of Press Freedom Use Fake News as a Censorship Tool." March 16, 2017. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://rsf.org/en/news/predators-press-freedom-use-fake-news-censorship-tool
- Repucci, Sarah. Senior Director of Global Publications at Freedom House. Personal Interview. Sept. 26, 2017.
- Robinson, Nation J. "Lessons from Chomsky." Current Affairs. July 30, 2017. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/07/lessons-from-chomsky
- Rogers, Tony. "Here is a Brief History of Print Journalism in America." ThoughtCo. June 29, 2017. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://www.thoughtco.com/here-is-a-brief-history-of-print-journalism-in-america-2073730
- Rusbridger, Alan. "The Importance of a Free Press." The Guardian. Oct. 6, 2011. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/oct/06/importance-free-press-alan-rusbridger
- Sarat, Austin. "Freedom of the Press isn't Guaranteed. Especially when it's Labeled 'the Enemy.'" The Guardian. Feb. 20, 2017. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/20/freedom-press-not-guaranteed-enemy-people-donald-trump
- Smith, David and Torres, Luc. "Timeline: A History of Free Speech." The Guardian. Feb. 10, 2006. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://www.theguardian.com/media/2006/feb/05/religion.news
- Stone, Geoffrey and Volokh, Eugene. "A Common Interpretation: Freedom of Speech and the Press." National Constitution Center. (Sept. 27, 2017). https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/a-common-interpretation-freedom-of-speech-and-the-press
- Taylor, Stuart. "Court, 8-0, Extends Right to Criticize those in Public Eye." New York Times. February 25, 1988. (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.nytimes.com/1988/02/25/us/court-8-0-extends-right-to-criticize-those-in-public-eye.html?pagewanted=all
- U.S. News & World Report. "Pentagon Papers: Secret Decisions that Altered the Vietnam War." June 13, 2016. (Oct. 24, 2017). https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-06-13/pentagon-papers-secret-decisions-that-altered-the-vietnam-war
- Volokh, Eugene. "Freedom of Speech and the Press." Heritage Guide to the Constitution. (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/amendments/1/essays/140/freedom-of-speech-and-of-the-press
- Zere, Abraham T. "Remembering the Day the Eritrean Press Died." Al Jazeera. Sept. 18, 2017. (Sept. 27, 2017). http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/remembering-day-eritrean-press-died-170918074330130.html