Faith in the magnitude of a press free of governmental control has stayed stable right through American history. America’s Founding Fathers affirmed the fundamental right of citizens to be informed about all sides of an issue without governmental interference. Thomas Jefferson even went so far as to write: “If it were left to me to decide whether we should have a government without a free press or a free press without a government, I would prefer the latter.” (The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, 2009). It is the reason why, among other things, the United States has no ministry of information to regulate the activities of journalists, no requirement that journalists be registered; and no requirement that they be members of a union. The First Amendment states,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” (Smith, 1997)
In clarification this means that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution prevents the government from setting up or establishing an official religion of the country. American Citizens have the freedom to attend any house of worship of their choice. It stops the government from making any laws that may stop people from saying what they feel or think. The American people have the right to share their opinions with other people or criticize the government. Freedom of the press means people have the right to get information from many different sources of information. The government does not have the power to control what is broadcasted on radio or television, what is printed in books or newspapers or what is offered online. American citizens have the right to come together in private and public gatherings. Citizens can join groups for religious, social, recreational or political reasons. The right to petition the government means that American citizens can ask for adjustments or changes in the government.
Nevertheless, the United States of America would not pride itself on freedom of the press without the government abiding by the First Amendment. In an interview during his research Mark Smith asked Marvin Kalb if the freedom of the freedom of the press in the United States is the consequence of First Amendment alone and this is how he answered,
“A free press must have a legal, constitutional guarantee, but that is not all it needs. It needs an independent judiciary and an independent legislature, independent of the arbitrary power of the president or prime minister or chairman of a political party. Independence of governmental authority is the key. This is admittedly very difficult to achieve without the economic means to buy space and time.” (Smith, 1997)
In our country, Botswana, we also have organizations of legal fortification for freedom of the press. However, our system seems not to be in alignment with the First Amendment or with what Marvin Kalb said here above. In the face of its strong democratic credentials, the government of Botswana does not live up to these standards. Government is the largest stakeholder in the media industry with close to entire control of television and radio. As the principal employer and business body, the government is also the leading advertiser and uses...