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JN204 Lecture Notes - John Stuart Mill, Liberal Democracy, On Liberty

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Bruce Gillespie

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Journalism Law and Ethics
September 18th, 2012
Week 2, Tuesday
Chapter 3
General historical look at freedom of expression
is the cornerstone idea in democracy for journalists.
Early newspapers
Late 18th and early 19th century newspapers were partisan- political mouthpieces for certain parties.
The included lots of invective and scathing reports about politicians, magistrates and other public
Nothing in common with todays newspapers except for how they look
Early newspapers:
Reporters and publishers could be sued successfully for writing negative things about public figures,
regardless of whether or not they were true. Because it was deemed malicious and that it was in print
alone was a bad thing.
Modern newspapers
in the 20th century newspapers came to see themselves as independent agents with a duty to safeguard
and promote public interest.
Freedom of the press came to be seen as a cornerstone of a liberal democracy.
The press enjoys the same freedom as any member of the public. Press freedom is simply an extension
of freedom of speech.
Government interference is the biggest potential threat to this freedom.
Before the charter:
Free speech and freedom of the press were not mentioned in the BNA act or other legislation before the
Judges still ruled in favour of the journalists on a regular basis.
“Canadian judges have always placed a high value on freedom of expression as an element of
parliamentary democracy and have sought to protect it with the limited tools that were at their
John Stuart Mill On Liberty
He describes what the principles of freedom of expression are.
Chief arguments are still ones we hear today
19th century journalist.
Better known as political economist and philosopher.
Published On Liberty in 1859.
Key thinker in liberal press theory.
What are we being robbed of by not allowing the free discussion of all ideas and opinions?
First: the opinion might be true
Second: even if the opinion proves false, it enables a “Stronger” truth to emerge via a “collision with
what he's arguing in favour for is open debate and discussion. How can we know if something is true if
we can't debate it and poke holes in it? If it proves wrong it can make a stronger theory to come out of
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