The freedom of the press is one of the most important components of the way the United States, so inherent in its principles that it was included in the very first amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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Map from Freedom House (2017)





Check out this map (to the right) of the world in consideration of whether or not countries have free press:
  • Green = Free
  • Tan = Partly Free
  • Purple = Not Free
To explore further, check out:

Freedom of the Press, 2016 from Freedom House




Dive into Freedom of Speech and of the Press with the Heritage Guide to the Constitution, Heritage Foundation or this overview and additional sources from Lincoln University.

Check out this video on 'why press freedom is your freedom' from CNN.

Notable Cases

Being as important and prominent of an amendment as it is, the right to freedom of the press has come into contention many times over the years, and has often made it all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Peter Zenger Trial of 1735
book.png Gail Jarrow's book The Printer's Trial: see her website.

primary_sources.PNGA Brief Narrative of the Case and Trial of John Peter Zenger, Printer of the New York Weekly Journal
rotating gif.gifFor background on this case, see Grade 5.14


Near v. Minnesota (1931)

In this freedom of the press case, the Court overturned Near's conviction for publishing a "malicious, scandalous, and defamatory" newspaper

  • external image ppheadline.gifthereby establishing "a constitutional principle the doctrine that, with some narrow exceptions, the government could not censor or otherwise prohibit a publication in advance, even though the communication might be punishable after publication in a criminal or other proceeding."



The New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964)

  • First Amendment protects publication of statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when made with actual malice
  • This case vehemently protects the freedom of the press, and in creating the new standard of proving 'actual malice' made it very difficult to condemn the press going forward


Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier(1988)

  • Schools had a right to refuse to allow the publication of two articles in the school newspaper that officials deemed "inconsistent with the shared values of civilized social order.
116th Anniversary of the Negro Press, issued 1942.John B. Russworm, founder of the first Negro Newspaper.
116th Anniversary of the Negro Press, issued 1942.John B. Russworm, founder of the first Negro Newspaper.




Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 10.26.50 AM.pngMore on court cases:

Major Freedom of the Press Court decisions Bill of Rights Institute

Key Court Cases: Press, from the First Amendment Center

Freedom of the Press, American Civil Liberties Union

Explore numerous publications from African Americans throughout history from the Black Press Research Collective.
external image Red_Apple.jpg"PriorRestraint and the Presumption of Unconstitutionality
When May the Government Enjoin Publications Threatening to National Security or the General Welfare?


To help students interact with an idea they might find dull or take for granted, consider implementing ideas from some of these lesson plans: