BEST EVER QUOTES ON A FREE PRESS

OBSERVATIONS AND INSIGHTS ABOUT THE ROLE AND IMPORTANCE OF AN AGGRESSIVE FREE PRESS. 

Compiled and sorted by Michael Josephson

Founding Fathers

  1. Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. Thomas Jefferson
  2. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. Thomas Jefferson
  3. Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost. Thomas Jefferson
  4. No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is not free no one ever will.  Thomas Jefferson
  5. I am… for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents. Thomas Jefferson
  6. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe. Thomas Jefferson
  7. No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions. Thomas Jefferson
  8. Considering the great importance to the public liberty of the freedom of the press, and the difficulty of submitting it to very precise rules, the laws have thought it less mischievous to give greater scope to its freedom than to the restraint of it. Thomas Jefferson
  9. By a declaration of rights, I mean one which shall stipulate freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of commerce against monopolies, trial by juries in all cases, no suspensions of the habeas corpus, no standing armies. These are fetters against doing evil which no honest government should decline. Thomas Jefferson
  10. It astonishes me to find… [that so many] of our countrymen… should be contented to live under a system which leaves to their governors the power of taking from them the trial by jury in civil cases, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of commerce, the habeas corpus laws, and of yoking them with a standing army. This is a degeneracy in the principles of liberty… which I [would not have expected for at least] four centuries. Thomas Jefferson
  11. The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed and that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press. Thomas Jefferson
  12. Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech. Benjamin Franklin
  13. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. James Madison
  14. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. James Madison
  15. The freedom of the press should be inviolate. John Quincy Adams
  16. As unbalanced parties of every description can never tolerate a free inquiry of any kind, when employed against themselves, the license, and even the most temperate freedom of the press, soon excite resentment and revenge. -John Adams
  17. “When the public’s right to know is threatened, and when the rights of free speech and free press are at risk, all of the other liberties we hold dear are endangered.” – Christopher Dodd
  18. “Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.” – George Orwell
  19. “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” – Thomas Jefferson
  20. “Freedom of conscience, of education, of speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged.” – FDR
  21. Freedom of expression – in particular, freedom of the press – guarantees popular participation in the decisions and actions of government, and popular participation is the essence of our democracy. – Corazon Aquino
  22. “The liberty of the press is essential to the security of the state.” – John Adams
  23. “The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.” – Ida B. Wells
  24. “A free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad.”  – Albert Camus

Presidents and Politicians

  1. Freedom of the press is the staff of life, for any vital democracy. Wendell Willkie
  2. Freedom of conscience, of education, of speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  3. Absolute freedom of the press to discuss public questions is a foundation stone of American liberty. Herbert Hoover
  4. We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. John F. Kennedy
  5. Those who suppress freedom always do so in the name of law and order. John Lindsay
  6. I want to make a toast to all at this press event who agree with Thomas Jefferson, who said that our liberty depends on the freedom of the press. So I want to lift a glass to those who defend that freedom. Our finest, the men and women in uniform who defend that freedom, our Constitution, and our exceptional way of life in America. Sarah Palin
  7. Wherever despotism abounds, the sources of public information are the first to be brought under its control. Where ever the cause of liberty is making its way, one of its highest accomplishments is the guarantee of the freedom of the press. Calvin Coolidge

Judges

  1. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. Hugo Black
  2. Criticism of government finds sanctuary in several portions of the 1st Amendment. It is part of the right of free speech. It embraces freedom of the press. Hugo Black
  3. The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Hugo Black
  4. Without a free press there can be no free society. That is axiomatic. However, freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of a free society. The scope and nature of the constitutional guarantee of the freedom of the press are to be viewed and applied in that light. Felix Frankfurter
  5. The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy. One’s right to life, liberty and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly may not be submitted to vote; they depend on no elections. Robert H. Jackson

Journalist & Reporters 

  1. Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy. Walter Cronkite
  2. Freedom of the press, or, to be more precise, the benefit of freedom of the press, belongs to everyone – to the citizen as well as the publisher… The crux is not the publisher’s ‘freedom to print’; it is, rather, the citizen’s ‘right to know.’ – Arthur Hays Sulzberge
  3. As someone who is in awe and grateful every day to be in a country where freedom of the press, free speech and free elections are a way of life, I am wowed, amazed and excited by the opportunity to moderate a 2012 presidential debate. Candy Crowley
  4. If the true freedom of the press is to decide for itself what to publish and when to publish it, the true responsibility of the press must be to assert and defend that freedom… What the press in America needs is less inhibition, not more restraint. Tom Wicker
  5. The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments. George Mason
  6. I think the important thing is that there be plenty of newspapers, with plenty of different people controlling them, so that there are a variety of viewpoints, so there is a choice for the public. This is the freedom of the press that is needed. Rupert Murdoch

Famous Writers 

  1. I avow that I do not hold that complete and instantaneous love for the freedom of the press that one accords to things whose nature is unqualifiedly good. I love it out of consideration for the evils it prevents much more than for the good it does. Alexis de Tocqueville
  2. The freedom of speech and the freedom of the press have not been granted to the people in order that they may say things which please, and which are based upon accepted thought, but the right to say the things which displease, the right to say the things which convey the new and yet unexpected thoughts, the right to say things, even though they do a wrong. Samuel Gompers
  3. Whenever there is injustice, there is tension. But in China it is very hard to release your anger unless you burn yourself or you jump from a bridge. In a society where there is no freedom of the press, it is difficult for victims to be noticed. Ai Weiwei
  4. I recognize the need to provide the press – and, through you, the American people – with information to the fullest extent possible. In our democracy, the work of the Pentagon press corps is important, defending our freedom and way of life is what this conflict is about, and that certainly includes freedom of the press. – Donald Rumsfeld
  5. After visits to several Communist countries (USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Slovenia, East Germany, Vietnam, China, Cuba), I feel strongly that most “revolutionary” types around the world don’t realize the importance of freedom of the press and the air, a right to peaceably assemble and discuss anything, including the dangers of such discussions. Pete Seeger
  6. Freedom of the press is the mortar that binds together the bricks of democracy — and it is also the open window embedded in those bricks. Shashi Tharoor
  7. I’m not a big fan of regulation: anyone who likes freedom of the press can’t be. Julian Assange
  8. Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose George Orwell
  9. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas of which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is “not done” to say it… Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the high-brow periodicals. – George Orwell
  10. The liberty of the press is a blessing when we are inclined to write against others, and a calamity when we find ourselves overborne by the multitude of our assailants. Samuel Johnson
  11. One of the unsung freedoms that go with a free press is the freedom not to read it. Ferdinand Mount
  12. Without general elections, without freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, without the free battle of opinions, life in every public institution withers away, becomes a caricature of itself, and bureaucracy rises as the only deciding factor. Rosa Luxemburg
  13. Woe to that nation whose literature is cut short by the intrusion of force. This is not merely interference with freedom of the press but the sealing up of a nation’s heart, the excision of its memory. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  14. To struggle against censorship, whatever its nature, and whatever the power under which it exists, is my duty as a writer, as are calls for freedom of the press. I am a passionate supporter of that freedom, and I consider that if any writer were to imagine that he could prove he didn’t need that freedom, then he would be like a fish affirming in public that it didn’t need water. Mikhail Bulgakov
  15. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion all have a double aspect – freedom of thought and freedom of action. Frank Murphy
  16. Without freedom of the press, there can be no representative government. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand
  17. Freedom of the press is to the machinery of the state what the safety valve is to the steam engine. Arthur Schopenhauer
  18. We don’t have an Official Secrets Act in the United States, as other countries do. Under the First Amendment, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of association are more important than protecting secrets. Alan Dershowitz
  19. Criticism
  20. Freedom of the press is essential to the preservation of a democracy; but there is a difference between freedom and license. Editorialists who tell downright lies in order to advance their own agendas do more to discredit the press than all the censors in the world. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  21. If you think there is freedom of the press in the United States, I tell you there is no freedom of the press… They come out with the cheap shot. The press should be ashamed of itself. They should come to both sides of the issue and hear both sides and let the American people make up their minds. Bill Moyers
  22. From the essay “Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again” 1. Journalists sometimes make things up. 2. Journalists sometimes get things wrong. 3. Almost all books that are published as memoirs were initially written as novels, and then the agent/editor said, This might work better as a memoir. 6. Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one. Nora Ephron
  23. When one makes a Revolution, one cannot mark time; one must always go forward – or go back. He who now talks about the ‘freedom of the press’ goes backward, and halts our headlong course towards Socialism. Vladimir Lenin
  24. In Czechoslovakia there is no such thing as freedom of the press. In the United States there is no such thing as freedom from the press. Martina Navratilova
  25. The bourgeoisie is many times stronger than we. To give it the weapon of freedom of the press is to ease the enemy’s cause, to help the class enemy. We do not desire to end in suicide, so we will not do this. Vladimir Lenin
  26. Why should freedom of speech and freedom of press be allowed? Why should a government which is doing what it believes to be right allow itself to be criticized? It would not allow opposition by lethal weapons. Ideas are much more fatal things than guns. Why should any man be allowed to buy a printing press and disseminate pernicious opinions calculated to embarrass the government? Vladimir Lenin
  27. Those who write the editorials and those who write the columns, they simply are unaccountable. They’re free to impose their cultural politics in the name of freedom of the press. Jesse Jackson
  28. Every time I criticize what I consider to be excesses or faults in the news business, I am accused of repression, and the leaders of various media professional groups wave the First Amendment as they denounce me. That happens to be my amendment, too. It guarantees my free speech as it does their freedom of the press… There is room for all of us – and for our divergent views – under the First Amendment. – Spiro T. Agnew
  29. Freedom of the press, freedom of the news media, must be subordinated to the overriding needs of the integrity of Singapore, and to the primacy of purpose of an elected government. – Lee Kuan Yew
  30. We must do away with all newspapers.  A revolution cannot be accomplished with freedom of the press. Che Guevara
  31. Freedom of press and freedom of speech: What a blessing for a country while in the hands of honest, patriotic men; what a curse if in the hands of designing demagogues. William J. H. Boetcker
  32. To get the inestimable good that freedom of the press assures one must know how to submit to the inevitable evil it gives rise to.  Alexis de Tocqueville
  33. What have the Germans gained by their boasted freedom of the press, except the liberty of abusing each other as they like? Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  34. It is almost superfluous to say that there is no such thing as a free and independent press among the mainstream news media today. In fact, the major media more resembles a propaganda machine than it does a free press. Chuck Baldwin
  35. We have more freedom of the press than any other country in a similar position. Even way back in the frightened ’50s, Communists, for example, could publish their magazine. The KKK published their own books. But face it, the mass media is controlled by money. Pete Seeger
  36. There is an urgent need to-day for the citizens of a democracy to think well. It is not enough to have freedom of the Press and parliamentary institutions. Our difficulties are due partly to our own stupidity, partly to the exploitation of that stupidity, and partly to our own prejudices and personal desires. Susan Stebbing
  37. Some of the press who speak loudly about the freedom of the press are themselves the enemies of  freedom. Countless people dare not say a thing because they know it will  be picked up and made a song of by the press. That limits freedom. Geoffrey Fisher
  38. Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one. A. J. Liebling
  39. The full impact of printing did not become possible until the adoption of the Bill of Rights in the United States with its guarantee of freedom of the press. A guarantee of freedom of the press in print was intended to further sanctify the printed word and to provide a rigid bulwark for the shelter of vested interests. Harold Innis
  40. Much as constitutional guarantees of press freedom do little good for prospective publishers if they do not have access to paper or ink, the right to aid in dying is strikingly useless if nobody is willing to help. Jacob M. Appel
  41. Never get into a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.
  42. Free inquiry entails recognition of civil liberties as integral to its pursuit, that is, a free press, freedom of communication, the right to organize opposition parties and to join voluntary associations, and freedom to cultivate and publish the fruits of scientific, philosophical, artistic, literary, moral and religious freedom. Paul Kurtz
  43. How can you have in our country that is based upon liberality and liberation, be so anti-liberal. That’s toxic waste to our consciousness. It’s hard to be an American conservative because that’s a contradiction in terms. Now if you take away freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of protest, and lock people out based upon their race, their language and their religion, that’s conservative and fascist. America is a liberal idea. Jesse Jackson
  44. Freedom of the press is a precious privilege that no country can forego. Mahatma Gandhi
  45. All Americans value the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, and I believe this is essential for our continued way of life. But with this freedom comes responsibility. That responsibility has been abdicated here by some in the media and some in the government. Steven Hatfill
  46. Town after town has but one newspaper or one radio station. It is often owned by Murdoch. Yes, we don’t have as much freedom of the press as we think we have – although the traditional freedom of speech is strongly rooted in American culture. Pete Seeger
  47. As people get their opinions so largely from the newspapers they read, the corruption of the schools would not matter so much if the Press were free. But the Press is not free. As it costs at least a quarter of a million of money to establish a daily newspaper in London, the newspapers are owned by rich men. And they depend on the advertisements of other rich men. Editors and journalists who express opinions in print that are opposed to the interests of the rich are dismissed and replaced by subservient ones. George Bernard Shaw