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Homework: Study for your test Friday/Monday FrontPage: Why is the freedom of the press important in a democracy?

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Presentation on theme: "Homework: Study for your test Friday/Monday FrontPage: Why is the freedom of the press important in a democracy?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Homework: Study for your test Friday/Monday FrontPage: Why is the freedom of the press important in a democracy?

2 Snyder vs. Phelps  Does the First Amendment protect protesters at a funeral from liability for intentionally inflicting emotional distress on the family of the deceased?  Yes. In an opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. The Court held that the First Amendment shields those who stage a protest at the funeral for a military service member from liability.  "Whether the First Amendment prohibits holding Westboro liable for its speech in this case turns largely on whether that speech is of public or private concern." And in this specific case, the judges determined, the words on Westboro's signs indeed dealt with "matters of public import" and are thus protected by the First Amendment. The signs highlight issues like "the political and moral conduct of the United States and its citizens, the fate of our Nation, homosexuality in the military, and scandals involving the Catholic clergy."

3 Morse vs. Frederick  At a school-supervised event, Joseph Frederick held up a banner with the message "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," a slang reference to marijuana smoking.  Principal Deborah Morse took away the banner and suspended Frederick for ten days. She justified her actions by citing the school's policy against the display of material that promotes the use of illegal drugs  The District Court found no constitutional violation and ruled in favor of Morse.  The court held that even if there were a violation, the principal had qualified immunity from lawsuit.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed.  Citing Tinker, because Frederick was punished for his message rather than for any disturbance, the Circuit Court ruled, the punishment was unconstitutional.

4 Does the 1 st amendment permit schools to restrict speech dealing with drug use?  Yes. The Court reversed the Ninth Circuit by a 5-4 vote, ruling that school officials can prohibit students from displaying messages that promote illegal drug use. Chief Justice John Roberts's majority opinion held that although students do have some right to political speech even while in school, this right does not extend to pro-drug messages that may undermine the school's important mission to discourage drug use. The majority held that Frederick's message, though "cryptic," was reasonably interpreted as promoting marijuana use - equivalent to "[Take] bong hits" or "bong hits [are a good thing]." In ruling for Morse, the Court affirmed that the speech rights of public school students are not as extensive as those adults normally enjoy, and that the highly protective standard set by Tinker would not always be applied. In concurring opinions, Justice Thomas expressed his view that the right to free speech does not apply to students and his wish to see Tinker overturned altogether, while Justice Alito stressed that the decision applied only to pro-drug messages and not to broader political speech. The dissent conceded that the principal should have had immunity from the lawsuit, but argued that the majority opinion was "[...] deaf to the constitutional imperative to permit unfettered debate, even among high-school students [...]."

5 FREEDOM OF THE PRESS The Right To Know vs. The Right to “No”

6 In the First Amendment…  “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; **What is “the press”?  - All forms of publication that are a means of conveying information and opinions.  What other word might we use today to describe “the press”? Examples?

7 What does “freedom of the press” really mean?  Just as there are many forms of “the press”, there are many different ideas about what this phrase could mean… Could it mean…  A publisher cannot refuse to print your ideas if you submit them?  Journalists do not have to identify their sources of information?  The government must provide the appropriate tools so that anyone can publish their ideas if they cannot afford to?  The press can be forced to provide equal time (or space) to all sides in a debate?  You can publish the work of another person without their permission?  The government cannot prevent the publication of any information?

8 Worldwide Press Freedom  According to, the US is 11 th in terms of press freedom  Some notable rankings: Finland 1 Denmark 2 Sweden 3 India 49 Mexico 68 Egypt 92 China 135

9 **How does “the press” function today?  Provides information to the public  Provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and debate

10 Homework: Test tomorrow/Monday FrontPage: In what situations might the freedom of the press need to be limited?

11 Saturday Night Live “War Briefing” Parody

12 Again, the question we must ask is, “How much freedom can the press exercise?

13 1 st Amendment protection for different types of media…  Highest: Print media  Includes the internet  Movies  Radio and TV  Cable TV perhaps a bit more…  Obscenity in general  Based on “community standards”

14 Shaping the Freedom of the Press: The Supreme Court  The Court must balance 2 needs when considering how much freedom the press can exercise… The public’s “Right to know” vs. Gov’t (or an individual’s) need for secrecy/privacy

15 How can the government infringe on the freedom of the Press? Prior restraint – government censorship of material before it can be published; or government/courts preventing the reporting of information  - Allowed only in certain circumstances  Will cause serious/irreparable harm  No other course/action would prevent the harm

16 Significant Supreme Court cases  Near vs. Minnesota  Held that prior restraint is unconstitutional; incorporated this part of the First Amendment  New York Times vs. Sullivan  Established the “actual malice” standard which has to be met before press reports can be considered to be defamation and libel  The actual malice standard requires that the plaintiff prove that the publisher of the statement knew that the statement was false or acted in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity.  Because of the extremely high burden of proof on the plaintiff, and the difficulty in proving essentially what is inside a person's head, such cases—when they involve public figures—rarely prevail.  New York Times vs. US  Pentagon Papers case: US could not prevent publication of confidential military documents


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