Word of the Day

freedom of the press

Origin of the phrase

This phrase seems to have first appeared in Britain in the 1660s, although the concept is found in Areopagitica by John Milton, published in 1644.


Freedom of the press refers to the circulation and publication of materials in newspapers, magazines and other formats such as social or electronic media platforms without restrictions implemented by governments. It is still necessary for the press to obey legislation regarding libel, obscenity and copyright, however. Freedom of the press encourages independent expression and communication in democracies, with its preservation being sought through legal or constitutional protections. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is one such safeguard. The antithesis of freedom of speech is censorship, whereby journalists and media outlets are prevented from expressing political opinions.

The United Kingdom has fallen in a ratings system which measures freedom of the press, according to a report by Reporters Without Borders. The World Press Freedom Index 2017 ranks countries according to their freedom of speech in the media, with the UK dropping two places to sit at 40th in the league table. This has led some commentators to claim this is ‘a worrying trend’ for the UK, while Norway came first on the index and has been described by the non-governmental organization as ‘faultless’.


The right of newspapers to publish stories and articles without being controlled by the government.

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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