Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and founding father of our country, expressed his support of the press when he said, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” President-elect Donald Trump has made statements that have caused concern for many in the media.
Research paper ideas to explore include a study of the important legal cases the First Amendment has played a role in over the years, as well as the role of free speech around the world and how it has been threatened.
Donald Trump and the press
During the campaign, Donald Trump developed a tense relationship with many news outlets, at times referring to them as “dishonest” among other things. He also expressed interest in changing libel laws to allow more lawsuits against the press for supposed “false articles.” A research paper could explore how the protection of free speech makes it difficult to bring legal action against the press in the United States and how this benefits everyone.
Will Donald Trump as president have a different relationship with the press than Donald Trump the candidate? Mirren Gidda and Zach Schonfeld wrote “Donald Trump’s Threat to Press Freedom: Why It Matters” on November 11, 2016, for Newsweek, and explained why the press is concerned. “But his refusal to allow a press pool to accompany him to his meeting with President Barack Obama suggested that his hostility toward reporters has not waned,” they wrote.
The role of the First Amendment
Freedom of the press is one of the foundations of American democracy, and there are systems in place to protect it. A research paper could examine some of the important Supreme Court cases that upheld the First Amendment, including Near v. Minnesota or New York Times v. Sullivan, or it could compare the libel laws in the United States to those in the United Kingdom or a country without the same protections, such as Russia.
Freedom of the press globally
The issue of freedom of the press isn’t just an issue in the U.S., it has profound effects around the world, with Russia being a prime example. “Countering Disinformation through a Free Press” originally presented as a policy review before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Benjamin Ziff, was later published in the January 1, 2016, edition of Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly. Ziff reported on the Russian government’s propaganda efforts to influence world opinion, which he says spent $1.4 billion and reached 600 million people across 130 countries in 30 languages.
Ziff stated, “The Russian government also funds think tanks and outside organizations in its neighboring states to help achieve its goals of promoting the Kremlin’s false narratives; portraying the West as a threat; and undermining trust in independent media as well as Western institutions and values.” A research paper could look at how the Kremlin planted false information in the public sphere about the conflict in Ukraine, as well as its cyber-attacks against the Democratic Party in the last election.
Do you think that freedom of the press is important to democracy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.