Freedom of the Press and General Theory of Freedom of Speech

16 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2011

See all articles by Wojciech Sadurski

Wojciech Sadurski

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: September 2011


Freedom of the press is a special principle vis-à-vis the general principle of freedom of speech; ‘special’ not in a weak sense, as a concretization of the general principle to a special category of issues, but ‘special’ in a strong sense, as governed by particular principles and criteria which do not apply in the same way to the general principle of freedom of speech. The ‘special’ character of freedom of the press is displayed by a special range of its right-holders (though the blurring of the distinction between news makers and news consumers renders this criterion increasingly fragile and unreliable), by the special subject-matter of rights triggered by freedom of the press (though special privileges for journalists may be questioned as unfair and self-serving), and most importantly, by special rationales for freedom of the press: not all justifications for general freedom of speech apply, or apply without important revisions, to freedom of the press. Deriving all rules regarding the contours and the strength of freedom of the press from the requirements of democracy may seem questionable but is ultimately persuasive. In particular, there is nothing antithetical to political democracy in allowing non-political speech to be regulated by the majority of the day. It will just not come under the control of the special principle of freedom of the press.

Keywords: press, media law, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of expression

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Sadurski, Wojciech, Freedom of the Press and General Theory of Freedom of Speech (September 2011). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 11/57, Available at SSRN: or

Wojciech Sadurski (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

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