Does Freedom of the Press Apply to Social Media?

As society is moving gradually towards liberal thoughts and a perfect democracy, Freedom of the Press is a non-negotiable right that must be protected at all costs if we must be guaranteed the freedom to call out our leaders and hold them accountable for their actions.

History has revealed that most of the revolutions that shook the world were fueled by the press. It goes to show that this is a powerful tool and if not wielded properly can cause damage. It’s no wonder it is said that “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

The power of a few well-crafted words can churn the required emotions in their intended audience and achieve untold results. Does this freedom apply to social media? A relatively new mode of information dissemination with multitudinous potential.

To understand clearly, we will succinctly explain the different media used by the press, the provisions that guarantee freedom of the press, its history, and if centuries later there is truly freedom to disseminate information no matter who or what it is about and still walk the streets without fear.

Types of Media

The word medium (plural is media) simply denotes the carrier of something. The different types of press media are carriers of information broadcasted through various channels with the help of technology. The types of media include but are not limited to:

a.     Print media

Print media is the earliest form of journalism that was widely accepted in homes and official environments alike, they include newspapers, magazines, comic books, etc. Information was disseminated this way and for a very long time stood unrivaled until the advent of the radio and television and people’s attention became divided. However, newspapers are still widely read as they serve as one of the most reliable sources of information. This medium goes through the printing press and on its pages are news stories, advertisements, and comic strips that were a source of entertainment in those days and a lot of other important stuff.

b.     Broadcasting

Broadcasting is the mass distribution of audio and video signals. With the debut of radio and television information could travel farther than before and the print media was no longer the unrivaled giant of journalism. Through informative and entertaining programs information is transmitted straight into people’s homes through a complex process aided by technology.

c.      Internet

The internet is a medium that is widely used by every sector and the press is not left out. It places every other medium in neat compact spaces. With the internet, one can have news as it is breaking delivered straight to you in written, audio, or visual format. This is where social media falls. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and a host of others are social media used to disseminate information. The dangers are the unverified news that is most times carried without repercussions to the carrier of such fake news.

Freedom of the Press

The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which was first adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the Bill of Rights protects the freedom of the press. This right over the years has proven to be one that is limited in character as there is information the government cannot give permission to be published due to national security and interest. There are also laws that guide against libel, racial slurs, sexist statements, and any negative information that may incite negative reactions. Social media, which is just another medium used by the press, is not exempted from the freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Many countries can however not boast of this freedom as decades after the dictator Idi Amin of Uganda was reported to have said, “There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech.” Therefore, in some countries, many journalists have been jailed, tortured, and even murdered by the powers they speak against, especially via social media where the reach is greater and the demographic varied.

Is freedom of the press especially on social media a myth or reality? We’ll let you decide.