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Press freedom is a crucial matter for governments and constituents in different countries. While free expression is widely accepted in developed countries, the measure varies. History shows that Norway has come a long way in terms of press freedom since censorship was eliminated in 1770 following a long period of suppression (Mannila 29). On the other hand, the US has had its high and low moments of press freedom. Norway is a monarchy and may be considered to be tyrannical in terms of press regulation. However, Norway was at the top of the charts relating to press freedom according to the 2017 World Press Freedom Index (Mannila 29). Conversely, the US is a democracy and is taken by many to be a leader in different areas internationally but it was ranked forty-third on the same index (Lewis 19). Accordingly, press freedom in Norway is better than in the US and the latter should learn important lessons on press deregulation, ownership, and censorship.
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Comparison and Contrast of Press Freedom between the US and Norway
Norway is considered to be one of the most open media environments across the globe despite the fact that ownership concentration among major broadcasters remains an issue. In recent times, courts have dealt with the legal matters linked to journalist protection in criminal cases. The US has a varied press landscape and one of the sturdiest legal protection systems in terms of freedom of expression (Lebovic 34). The leading threat to press freed stems from the economic environment. Asides from this, the media has also faced challenges between the concept of openness and national security priorities. The number of media of controversies has reduced in the recent times following increased pressure on journalists to reveal the sources of their information. The background of press freedom in both countries reveals that there are clear differences and a few similarities.
To start with, there are clear standards governing press freedom in both countries. In the case of the US, freedom of speech and press freedom are covered by the First Amendment of the Constitution. The Norway media is governed by Article 100 of the constitution that touches on the right to access information from the government, media freedom and freedom of expression (Mannila 29). Secondly, the political environment for the media in both countries is conducive (Lebovic 34). The US media is free from censorship and self-censorship is non-existent. Norwegian media houses are free from undue political pressure and censorship. Additionally, journalists from both countries are able to work without physical limitations. Although attacks on journalists on duty is rare, sometimes they happen while covering breaking news events and demonstrations. Thirdly, both countries experience a high level of internet penetration and this espouses information sharing and access.
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There are differences in press freedom between Norway and the US. The legal environment in Norway and the US is dissimilar. This is because the US has one of the most rigid legal protection for media liberty. The court system is in the US has constantly come up with rulings to improve media freedom (Lebovic 36). In addition to this, the court system has also offered the press extensive protection from defamation and libel suits that involve comments on public figures despite the fact that libel is taken to be a criminal offense in a couple of states (Mannila 29). The Norwegian penal code outlaws hate speech and is subject to a three-year imprisonment. Some restrictive aspects of the penal code were eliminated in 2015 (Mannila 29).
The other difference lies in the economic environment. The media in the US is under private ownership. All the same, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR) are financed through private contributions and government allocation and they enjoy substantial viewership. There are foreign news outlets that operate freely in the US and they include Spanish-language services and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (Lebovic 37). Traditional media including broadcast outlets and news production have suffered immensely owing to the growing popularity of the internet as a news source. On the contrary, Norway has a high level of newspaper readership as there are more than two hundred newspapers that are circulated in the economy that cover diverse topics and opinions. Ownership continues to be a major issue facing the Norwegian media as there are three companies that run the print media in the country. Nonetheless, competition in the country is still strong despite the economic conundrum that started in 2008 (Freedom House2).
Reasons behind the US Ranking
The US embraces liberty in all areas and it would be expected that the media enjoys a high level of freedom. There are strong legal protections that dictate freedom of expression in the country, and these can be attributed to the national security problems that it faces (Jones 15). As a result, the US has been ranked 43rd and Scandinavian countries such as Norway are doing relatively well in terms of press freedom. There have been incidents of press freedom violation that are characterized by journalists’ arrests such as the controversial Ferguson arrest that occurred in 2014.
The legal environment in the country is behind the ranking. The First Amendment has been under pressure on various occasions in the past and the court system has intervened to facilitate greater press freedom (Jones 23). To date, the federal government has not come up with measures to offer journalists protection. In the past, federal prosecutors have been involved in different controversies surrounding the use of coercion in high profile cases involving sharing sensitive government information. These cases were prevalent in the Obama administration where criminal charges were brought against those that were alleged to have leaked government secrets (Lebovic 45).The number of attacks on journalists has reduced although there are rare cases and this also contributes to the ranking. Internet penetration is seen to be lower than that of other countries placed higher on the list and this can be blamed on the internet.
Press Freedom in Norway
Norway has an open media environment even though the concentration of ownership among the major players remains questionable. Courts have recently dealt with legal questions that are linked to journalist protection. There have been changes that have been made making Norway one of the most liberated media environment. For example, defamation was detached from other criminal offenses. Furthermore, the Supreme Court made a ruling that the police did not have the mandate to seize unpublished material from a journalist or a filmmaker (Mannila 29). Such moves have made Norway a global leader in freedom of the press. Access to government information is facilitated by the 2006 Freedom of Information Act that ensures that the citizens and other interested parties can view government documents. The media is free from censorship and this gives journalists the independence to publish the desired content.
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Significance of the First Amendment to the US Journalists
The First Amendment is closely linked to the freedom of the press. This means that it has a direct impact on the stories that journalists share and investigate on. History shows that the use of the law as a means of protecting journalists is limited. Courts have confirmed that it bars government censorship as well as defamation lawsuits. This being said, the US journalists have limited rights pertaining to issues of access to government sources and documents. The First Amendment, therefore, mixes up the legally protected that should be given to journalists. As a consequence, the press uses non-legal safeguards for protection (Jones 23). Despite the fact that the First Amendment is widely acknowledged to regulate freedom of speech, it does not offer the journalists the necessary protection.
Censorship and its role in freedom of press in the US and Norway
Censorship involves the suppression of public communication and public speech which is defined in the US and Norway constitution. Media censorship has a negative impact on press freedom and the exchange of information. Curtailed press freedom has been a contentious issue in both countries. Censorship has resulted in media protest in the US as there are times when the rights of journalists have been infringed upon (Jones 23). Such situations have been related to classified information and government secrets. The press in the US is not free and this explains the position in the media freedom rank. The US is urged to relax its stipulations on censorship in order to have a free media. The media in Norway is free from all types of censorship and journalists are offered protection. This means that they have the right to publish the content that they have and are not obligated to reveal their sources. Journalists are free to publish the content that they wish and are not obligated to reveal their sources.
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Case for Freedom of Press in the US
The case of Near v. Minnesota was a defining moment for press freedom in the use as it introduced the idea of prior restraint. A local editor named Jay Near was under attack for publishing allegations that local officials were affiliated with gangsters. The law stated that anyone that published defamatory content could be barred from distributing it (Silverman 42). The Supreme Court revealed the press freedom was inhibited in Minnesota and this was against the First Amendment. The case helped the establishment of the principle that the government does not have the right to a publication with a few exceptions.
Case for Freedom of Press in Norway
One of the most momentous cases in recent times was Rolfsen and Association of Norwegian Editors v. the Norwegian Prosecution Authority in 2015 (Lebovic 48). It involved a filmmaker named Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen, whose unpublished video recordings were seized by the police. He was charged with trying to join an Islamic terrorist group in Syria. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the filmmaker. This showed that the media laws in Norway side with the filmmakers and journalists and they are offered the requisite protection. Based on these cases, it is evident that both countries were chosen owing to the clear disparity in their level of press freedom.
In conclusion, media freedom is a contentious issue facing countries across the globe. The level of media freedom varies as shown in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. There are clear disparities between the press freedom in Norway and the US. While the Norwegian press enjoys freedom and protection, the US media is governed by strict regulations that affect the freedom of the media. The police and other law enforcement agencies do not have the right to interfere with the publication or investigation of journalists. Moreover, all government information is availed to the public. The First Amendment is the US is seen as a way of limiting press freedom and this has resulted in different protests in the past. The media’s access to some government documents that are said to be confidential is limited. While Norway remains at the top of the press freedom ranking, it should work towards maintaining its. On the other hand, Changes should be introduced in regulation to grant the media in the US greater freedom and protection and eliminate censorship.
- Jones, Molly. The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech, the Press, and Religion. New York: Rosen Central, 2011. Print.
- Lebovic, Sam. Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 2016. Print.
- Lewis, Anthony. Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment. New York: Basic Books, 2007. Print.
- Mannila, Saga. Women and men in the news: Report on gender representation in Nordic news content and the Nordic media industry. Norway: Nordic Council of Ministers, 2017. Print.
- Silverman, David, ed. Qualitative research. Oaks, CA: Sage, 2016. Print.