Freedom of the press is a fundamental component of our liberal democratic societies. It is a concept framed in international human rights conventions and enshrined in legal and regulatory frameworks around the world. However, the concept of freedom of the press is contested, and debates concerning the precise meaning and scope of freedom of the press are often polarised around the role and independence of the press, and the role of regulatory frameworks in developing and enforcing ethical codes of practice.

In order to contribute to this complex set of debates, this research explores freedom of the press in principle and in practice in the UK and overseas, with a view to developing a clear definition of freedom of the press for use by the press itself and civil society. By examining the regulatory environments and press ethics codes of a number of European countries, with a view to developing recommendations that will feed into the ongoing UK debate about press ethics and regulation, this research seeks to offer thoughtful, empirically-grounded and critical reflection on the optimum conditions for freedom of the press in the UK.

In terms of scope, the research problematises the notion of ‘the press’, given that the converged news media environment that currently exists globally transcends traditional newspapers and broadcasters. Instead, the research will examine how ‘news-work’ is affected by ethics codes and regulatory environments so as to better define the scope of ‘freedom of the press’ outside of its traditional parameters. It will also examine how those who consume the press or are affected by it, and understand and rationalise the concept of freedom of the press.

Utilising document analysis, interviews, focus groups, stakeholder workshops and even a MOOC and public exhibition, the research will develop a set of recommendations and benchmarks for freedom of the press that more accurately reflects the current news work environment, and better serves the press as a set of institutions and the public who rely on it.

Countries Included
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, UK

AHRC Project Reference
AH/R00644X/1 (click for info)

… click here to read about the project’s planned research impact.