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Introduction to press theory and Freedom of press

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Introduction to Press Theory

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Theories are the explanations of how or why things happen the way they do. Study of communication theory is very important for students and communication professionals. Communication theories reflect the cultural and social revolutions in the society. It is helpful to analyze the history of mankind.

In the previous year, people were curious about how human communication works and how communication becomes effective. So, the curiosity led the people to develop various communication theories. Many theorists have tried to analyze the impact of media on people by applying different communication theories. Today, communication or press theories are important tools to examine the journalistic trend and media impact on audiences. Press theories are guidelines and philosophical measurement tools to media and its environment. The four press theories include all the media of mass communication, including television, radio, and newspaper. These theories are still acknowledged by many mass media researchers. The four press theories are listed below:

1. The Authoritarian Theory

The authoritarian theory was developed in the late Renaissance. It was based on the idea that truth is the product of a few wise men. The authoritarian theory requires direct government control of the mass media. This is the oldest theory of the press which asserts the government control over the press. In this theory , the media are not allowed to print or broadcast anything that undermines the established authority and any offense to the existing political values. This theory has only as much freedom as the national leadership at any particular time . Nowadays, this theory is still functioning in the non- democratic countries. Most of the non-democratic countries like Latin America, Africa, and Asia follows this theory.

The Fundamental assumptions of this theory system are:

  1. Media are not allowed to enjoy independence.
  2. There must be the perfect government.
  3. The Media is controlled by the Government by using different techniques of licensing, censorship and imprisonment.
  4. The Countries which are non- democratic are still following the theory.

2. Free Press Theory

The Free Press theory was introduced by the philosophy of freedom in the eighteenth century. This theory states the freedom of the publisher. He should be free to publish whatever h/she likes. This theory came from the works of men like Milton, Locke, Mill, and Jefferson and avowed that the search for truth is one of the man's natural rights. There should be no restrictions on import or export of media messages across the national frontiers. This press theory is found in democratic theory like the USA. The journalist and media professionals must have full autonomy within the media organization.

The Fundamental assumptions of the Free press Theory are:

  1. The Free press theory is found in most of the democratic countries.
  2. Journalists should have full autonomy.
  3. There should not be any restriction on import and export of media messages.
  4. The criticism of the government’s policies is accepted and encouraged.

3. Communist Theory

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The Communist Theory is run by the communist party . All the journalists are the member of the party.They are owned and operated by the State and directed by the Communist Party or its agencies. The legacy of this theory has been remaining in China, North Korea, and Cuba until the date. The communist theory is different from the authoritarian theory. The media organizations have a certain responsibility to meet the wishes of their audience. The communist theory is the expanded and more positive version of the old Authoritarian theory. The media have no real concern with giving them much information about govern­mental activities or of its leaders.

The fundamental assumptions of the theory are:

  1. There is the restriction of the private media organization.
  2. The media institution is junior than the government.
  3. Media serve the interests of the working class.
  4. The mass media must have self –regulatory.

4. The Social Responsibility Theory

The Social Responsibility theory was brought by an American initiative in the late forties. The commission on the Freedom of the press provided a model in which the media had certain obligations to society. This theory represents the equal radio and television time for political candidates, the obligations of the newspaper in a one-paper town, etc.;These obligations were expressed in the words informativeness, truth, accuracy, objectivity and balance. This new theory maintains that the importance of the press in modern society makes it absolutely necessary. The obligation of social responsibility is imposed on the media of mass communication. (PRESERVE ARTICLES)

The fundamental assumptions of the theory are:

  1. Media has some obligations to society.
  2. This theory was developed under US initiative in the forties.
  3. Media is for minority groups.
  4. Journalists are accountable to their audience as well as the government.

Freedom of the Press

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Freedom of the press is the guarantee by the government of the free public press for its citizens and their associations. It is the right to publish news and opinions without the government intervention. It also extends to news gathering and processes involved in obtaining information for public distribution. Freedom of the press is the most comprehensive data set available on global media freedom. It serves as a key resource for policymakers, international institutions, journalists, activists, and scholars worldwide.

Freedom of the press is the essential part of the human rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. It is the liberty to express and exchange opinions and information. The freedom of the press is the defense of democracy. It is the protection against the state or undemocratic government. In most of the democratic countries, press freedom is guaranteed in the constitutions. But, the struggle for press freedom is ongoing in the totalitarian countries. The freedom of speech permits societies to establish what is true. The press freedom can be interpreted in some context as being distinct from any general of speech.

Press freedom means that anyone can launch a newspaper, magazine or website to publish their news. But this freedom is not absolute. In the press freedom societies, the publisher will not be constrained before they publish. The Article-15 of the Interim Constitution of Nepal-2007 has guaranteed the press freedom in Nepal.

Basic Principle and Criteria of Freedom and Press

Freedom of press implies that all people should have the right to express themselves in writing or in the way of expression of personal opinion. The concept of freedom of speech is often covered by the same laws as freedom of the press. It gives equal treatment to media and individuals.

Besides the legal environment, some non- governmental organizations use more criteria to judge the level of press freedom around the world. The Reporters Sans Frontiers considers the number of journalists murdered, expelled or harassed and the existence of a State monopoly on TV and Radio. The overall independence of media, as well as the difficulties that foreign reporters face, may also be noticed. The freedom house studies the general political and economic environments of each nation. The concept of independence of the press is one closely linked with the concept of press freedom. (Binay Devkota)

Refernces:

Binay Devkota, and Leelawati Khadka. Acharya, B.B. Mass Communication. Kathmandu, Nepal: Pradhan Book House, Exhibition Road, Kathmandu, Nepal, First Edition 2066(2009). 243 - 248. Electronic.

PRESERVE ARTICLES. Copyright 2012. Electronic. 10 09 2016. http://www.preservearticles.com/what-are-the-the-four-theories-of-the-press.html



  1. Theories are the explanations of how or why things happen the way they do.
  2. The authoritarian theory requires direct government control of the mass media.
  3. From the beginning of the 15th century, there was authoritarian press in the world.
  4. The Free Press theory was introduced by the philosophy of freedom in 18th century. 
  5. The Free press theory is found in most of the democratic countries.
  6. The Social Responsibility theory was brought by an American initiative in the late forties.
  7. Freedom of the press is the essential part of the human rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
  8. Freedom of press implies that all people should have the right to express themselves in writing or in the way of expression of personal opinion.
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