The Importance of Free Press in a Democracy

Before we can understand the importance of a free press in a democracy, we need to grasp what it means to have a free press. The Cambridge Dictionary tells us that a free press allows all media outlets to express whatever opinions they desire. That means, it says, that they are enabled to “criticize the government and other organizations.” So why would that be relevant in a democracy?


The answer seems pretty simple to us. A democracy is defined as a belief in equality and freedom amongst the people within it that is governed by a system that upholds that belief. So, if democracy is about freedom, then a free press is necessary to ensure that those freedoms remain intact. Any censorship on behalf of those with biased interests takes away the core of democracy.


Al Gore writes in his book, The Assault on Reason, that when the media forum is controlled, specifically by those with money, it limits good ideas created by those who cannot afford access. Specifically, he states, “…when their opinions are blocked, the meritocracy of ideas that has always been the beating heart of democratic theory begins to suffer damage.”
This is not to say that the rich are always the main problem in protecting and ensuring the existence of a free press. In truth, people will always avoid saying and presenting things that go against their own self interests. That is why it is so important for media outlets to employ people on both sides of a position and to give them the same amount of air time or written space. People cannot be informed fully if only one side of an argument is ever presented at length.


When the public is constantly exposed to liberal thoughts, and conservative positions are derided if even exposed, the marketplace of ideas is greatly hindered and twisted. The same is true when only conservative positions are presented without any counter balanced progressive input. As this occurs, we see people negating what was accomplished in 1787 when some of the most influential thinkers and individuals of the time converged on Philadelphia to ensure that this democracy was ruled by the people. The government should never be an entity that rules over them, according to the first words of the Constitution, “We the people…”


That’s why everything got divided into a checks and balances system. The Founding Fathers knew the human propensity towards issues of control. Absolute authority had to be hindered, and as long as this democracy has a free press, it can be. People must have access to the facts and to the truth. They have to be fully informed. Free press was included in the first constitutional amendment because it is critical to the maintenance of the dream that is America. The populace must be able to trust that the news they receive is revealing all sides, not just one agenda.


When a free press works as it should, it is a watchdog that protects the people it serves by keeping businesses, organizations, and the government under restraint. There is no other institution that has greater access to those in power than the media. They are there to uncover and reveal corruption no matter who will be affected by the truth. The truth is what has kept this democracy strong and a free press is the foundation it rests on.

Post Your Opinion: TheOpinionPoll.com