Guest post: Freedom of the press is freedom of mass communication

Originally a comment by journalist Bruce Gorton on Off with their heads.

Is the potential of losing a free press more significant than the potential loss of individual liberty?

The free press is an individual liberty.

When you get right down to it, when you post a comment on a website or on your Facebook page or whatever, you’re essentially engaging in editorial. If you post anything with the intent to inform people in that public space, there is no real difference between you doing it, and a journalist doing it. It’s still fundamentally the same thing.

Freedom of the press, is essentially the same thing as freedom of your Facebook profile. It extends beyond the traditional media, into everyone else, because there is no real way to divorce one from the other.

This is part of the problem with the ANC’s moves to restrict press freedoms in South Africa, a lot of people didn’t begin to realise what was going on right up until the Film and Publications Board started talking about requiring people to pay them to check their Facebook posts or YouTube videos.

What freedom of the press really amounts to is freedom of mass communication. It is more insidious than taking away freedom of speech on a personal level because people don’t think about it that way, and thus don’t realise what is going on right up until they’re the ones getting arrested for having insulted the president on Twitter.

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