Undoubtedly, the first amendment to the Constitution is one of the most important amendments in the Bill of Rights, protecting the rights to free speech, press, religion, and assembly. However, these rights are laid out ambiguously in the Constitution. This fact has led to many different interpretations to what exactly falls under the protections of these rights and what does not. Often, the federal court system fills in the gaps in legislation on a case-to-case basis, changing the laws as needed. Since the colonial beginnings of our country, free press in particular has been integral to the continuing tradition of democracy that we in America enjoy. It allows the flow of information (both fact and fiction), to flow from one end of the country to the other. However free the press may seem, many forms of press do not fall under the protection of the Constitution, including forms such as the movie industry and libelous writings. It has been the effect of the outcomes of many court cases over our country’s history that has given us the freedom of the press as it is defined today.
The freedom of the press was included in the first amendment of the Constitution in the Bill of Rights in 1791. It was included as part of a promise that if the Constitution was ratified, a Bill of Rights would be added. The founding fathers felt that in order to maintain a free society, freedom of the press was a necessity. Many of the early state constitutions included the right to freedom of the press in an attempt to limit governmental power. However, there was much disagreement as to what forms of press were protected under the Constitution. In 1798, the Sedition Act was passed to punish any journalists who criticized the government. Opponents of the Sedition Act said that it was unconstitutional and that the government was abusing its power, but the law expired before the Supreme Court could hear any cases on it (Bodenhamer, 2007). The...
Bibliography: Bodenhamer, D. J. (2007). Our Rights. New York: Oxford University Press.
Federal Communications Commision v. Pacifica Foundation, 77-528 (The Supreme Court April 18, 1978).
Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, 86-1278 (The Supreme Court December 2, 1987).
Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commision, 236 (The Supreme Court January 6, 1915).
New York Times v. United States, 1873 (The Supreme Court June 26, 1970).
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