The Role of Journalistic Community
While the United Nations is working on international agreements with regard to freedom of information as a human right, the journalistic community everywhere is also continually striving for advancement of this freedom. For example, under the initiative of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, an International Press Institute was established in June, 1951, in Paris and later in 1969 in Manila, Philippines. Also, a Freedom of Information Center was set up at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, in 1958. Their common goals, besides fighting for the human rights, include:
1. The right to get information;
2. The right to print without prior restraint;
3. The right to print without fear of reprisal nor under duress.
4 . The right of access to facilities and materials essential to communication; and
5. The right to distribute information without interference by government acting under law or by citizens in defiance of the law.
Economic developments that have evoked such regulatory actions include the industrialization of news publishing the concentration of newspaper ownership, the growth of monopolies in auxiliary sectors of the economy, the increasing world-wide demand for newsprint, and the rising costs of news-gathering and of the material requirements for publishing.
Regulation of the enterprise and the material resources usually presents either of two aspects. One may tend toward or result in giving full force to the concept of free information-by giving free play to the economic system which is considered necessary, by helping to remove the obstacles to free information which that system might create, or by founding or assisting the special organisations needed for the proper exploitation of material resources. Or, two, such regulation may be motivated by the wish of the political authorities to restrict the right of expression and to make the press a channel of control by political leaders.
In either case, the regulation of the enterprise and the material resources necessary for the publication and dissemination of information, profoundly affects the freedom of such enterprises in the conduct of their activities.
Owing to the size of the economic resources required in the production and distribution of newspapers these operations are increasingly centered in large scale economic units or enterprises.
This has resulted in the frequent charge that the economically weak have no voice in the news press. It is true, as Lenin alleged that in liberal economic (capitalist) systems ‘freedom of the press is merely the liberty of the wealth to be the press…?’ To answer this question, one must consider the variety of ownership and the means of financing available to diverse opinion in such liberal economic systems.