Law and Ethics in Journalism - Freedom of Speech

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"The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity." (Blackstone)Journalists and their associations can be called upon to defend their freedom against those who are critical of the media and its operations, which often result in a journalist being sued for defaming a person, or organisation's reputation, or hold the party up to ridicule. In the other corner, Freedom of the press is the guarantee by a government of free public press for its citizens and their associations, extended to members of news organisations, and their published or broadcast reporting.

While these laws have been practiced over centuries it is important to look at both ideas and conclude if defamation laws and press freedom are compatible.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers". (Morsink, 1999)Defamation laws can be defined as intended primarily to protect the plaintiff's mental or emotional well-being. If a publication of information is false, then a tort of defamation might have occurred. If that communication is not technically false but is still misleading then a tort of false light might have occurred.(Hurst 2007) Jurisdictions resolve this tension in different ways, in particular in determining where the burden of proof lies when unfounded allegations are made,