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Introduction to Mass Communication

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With the print media taking the world by storm and having enormous influence on cultures and
hitting the government policies hard, debate of its use and misuse was a natural phenomenon.
First US newspaper was titled Publick Occurrences, and came out in 1690. It only printed one issue, however,
as it was shut down by colonial officials, possibly due to censorship and control issues. It followed the two
column format, and was a single sheet, printed on both sides.
In the early part it were the governments which prevailed and successfully harassed the printers and the
publishers but as the print media got backing of society and organized itself, it started getting difficult for
the government to twist media arms at will.
When the tug of war looked getting out of hand, it was decided that parliaments should come into play and
enact laws which discipline the media. The laws were framed against which started press freedom
campaigns. Some organizations, from within the media took in onto themselves to develop a code of ethics
for self-accountability. The process of making laws against press, the struggle of press freedom along with
practicing media ethics continued and rages strong even today.
Here we will examine this debate to some detail.

Press laws

Press Laws are the laws concerning the licensing of books and the liberty of expression in all
products of the printing-press, especially newspapers. The liberty of the press has always been regarded by
political writers as of supreme importance.
Before the invention of printing, the Church assumed the right to control the expression of all opinion
distasteful to her. The Church and universities soon found the output of books beyond their control. In
1496 Pope Alexander VI began to be restrictive, and in 1501 he issued a bill against unlicensed printing,
which introduced the principle of censorship. Between 1524 and 1548 the Imperial Diet in Germany drew
up various stringent regulations; and in France, prohibited by edict, under penalty of death, the printing of


Censorship was either restrictive or corrective, i.e., it interfered to restrict or prevent publication, or
it enforced penalties after publication. Repression of free discussion was regarded as so necessary a part of
government that Sir Thomas More in his Utopia makes it punishable with death for a private individual to
criticize the conduct of the ruling power.
Under Elizabeth the Star Chamber assumed the right to confine printing to London, Oxford and
Cambridge, to limit the number of printers and presses, to prohibit all publications issued without proper
license, and to enter houses to search for unlicensed presses and publications.

Legislation on press laws

Over seventy countries around the world have implemented some form of freedom of information
legislation, which sets rules on access to information or records held by government bodies, the oldest being
Sweden's Freedom of the Press Act of 1766.
Many more countries are working towards introducing such laws, and many regions of countries with
national legislation have local laws - for example, all states of the US have access laws as well as the national
legislation. In general, such laws define a legal process by which government information is available to the
In many countries there are vague constitutional guarantees for the right of access to information, but
usually these are unused unless specific legislation to support them.
These laws may also be described as open records or (especially in the United States) sunshine laws. A
related concept is open meetings legislation, which allows the public access to government meetings, not
just to the records of them. In many countries, privacy or data protection laws may be part of the freedom
of information legislation; the concepts are often closely tied together in political discourse.
A basic principle behind most freedom of information legislation is that the burden of proof falls on the
body asked for information, not the person asking for it. The requester does not usually have to give an
explanation for their request, but if the information is not disclosed a valid reason has to be given.

Laws in some countries- examples

In Australia, the Freedom of Information Act 1982 was passed at the federal level in 1982, applying
to all "ministers, departments and public authorities" of the Commonwealth.
There is similar legislation in all states and territories:
Australian Capital Territory, the Freedom of Information Act 1989
New South Wales, the Freedom of Information Act 1989
Northern Territory, the Information Act 2003
Queensland, the Freedom of Information Act 1992
South Australia, the Freedom of Information Act 1991
Tasmania, the Freedom of Information Act 1991
Victoria, the Freedom of Information Act 1982
Western Australia, the Freedom of Information Act 1992
In Canada, the Access to Information Act allows citizens to demand records from federal bodies. This is
enforced by the Information Commissioner of Canada. There is also a complementary Privacy Act,
introduced in 1983. The purpose of the Privacy Act is to extend the present laws of Canada that protect the
privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by a federal government
institution and that provide individuals with a right of access to that information. It is a Crown copyright.
Complaints for possible violations of the Act may be reported to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

European Union

Regulation 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding
public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents grants a right of access to
documents of the three institutions to any Union citizen and to any natural or legal person residing, or
having its registered office, in a Member State. "Document" is defined broadly and it is assumed that all
documents, even if classified, may be subject to right of access unless it falls under one of the exceptions. If
access is refused, the applicant is allowed a confirmatory request. A complaint against a refusal can be made
with the European Ombudsman or an appeal can be brought before the Court of First Instance.
In addition, the Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 17 November 2003
on the re-use of public sector information sets out the rules and practices for accessing public sector
information resources for further exploitation


The Indian Right to Information Act was introduced to the Indian Parliament in July 2000. It came
into effect on 12 Oct 2005. Under this law the information has become a fundamental right of the citizen.
Under this law all Government Bodies or Government funded agencies have to designate a Public
Information officer (PIO). The PIO's responsibility is to ensure that information requested is disclosed to
the petitioner within 30 days or within 48 hours in case of information concerning the life and liberty of a
person. The law was inspired by previous legislations from selected states (among them Maharastra, Goa,
Karnataka, Delhi etc) that allowed the right to information (to different degrees) to citizens about activities
of any State Government body.
A number of high profile disclosures revealed corruptions in various government schemes such scams in
Public Distribution Systems (ration stores), disaster relief, construction of highways etc. The law itself has
been hailed as a landmark in India's drive towards more openness and accountability.

United States

In the United States the Freedom of Information Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B.
Johnson on July 4, 1966 and went into effect the following year. The Electronic Freedom of Information
Act Amendments was signed by President Bill Clinton on October 2, 1996.
The Act applies only to federal agencies. However, all of the states, as well as the District of Columbia and
some territories, have enacted similar statutes to require disclosures by agencies of the state and of local
governments, though some are significantly broader than others. Many combine this with Open Meetings
legislation, which requires government meetings to be held publicly.


President Pervez Musharraf promulgated the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 in October
2002. The law allows any citizen access to public records held by a public body of the federal government
including ministries, departments, boards, councils, courts and tribunals. It does not apply to government
owned corporations or provincial governments. The bodies must respond within 21 days.
Colonial period in subcontinent – Laws in the 19th & 20th century
The Registration of books and newspaper act,1867
The Press (emergency power) act 1931
The States (protection against disaffection) act, 1922
The Foreign relations act 1932
The Criminal law amendment act 1932
The States protection act, 1934
The Post office act 1898
The Official secret act
The Press and Publication Ordinance of 1963

Constitution of 1973
Article 19

This article reads as follows:
“Every citizen shall have the right of freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the
press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the
integrity, security, or defense of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public
order, decency or morality or in relation to the contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an office.”

Press Council of Pakistan

The law states that the Code, which deal with issues as morality, plagiarism, fairness, accuracy,
privacy, sensationalism, confidentiality and privilege, will allow journalists to operate “in accordance with
the canons of decency, principles of professional conduct and precepts of freedom and responsibility, to
serve the public interest by ensuring an unobstructed flow of news and views to the people envisaging that
honesty, accuracy, objectivity and fairness shall be the guidelines for the press while serving the public
The Council will be an independent corporate entity, with its own staff, secretariat and budget and will be
financed through an annual governmental grant-in-aid as well as other grants and donations and such fees
as it may levy from registered newspapers and news agencies. This council is considered to be a euphemistic
connotation of censorship.

Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002

The freedom of information ordinance introduced in 2002 contains some positive features
acknowledging citizens right to know. However, the 21st day time frame for the release of information and
inclusion of courts and tribunals, among those require disclosing information mar its true spirit. Large
amounts of information are also not subject to disclosure under the ordinance, largely undermining the
public’s right to know. Instead of applying to all records held by public bodies, the ordinance provides a,
restrictive list of public records subject to disclosure.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference
and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers."


Article 19 monitors threats to free expression around the globe, lobbies governments to adopt laws
that conform to international standards on freedom of expression; and drafts legal standards which
strengthen media, public broadcasting, free expression and access to government-held information.
It also produces legal analysis and critiques of national laws, including media laws; provides legal counsel on
behalf of individuals or groups whose rights have been violated; and provides capacity-building support to
non-governmental organizations, judges and lawyers, journalists, media owners, media lawyers, public
officials and parliamentarians.
Article 19’s work is organized into five Regional Programmes – Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and
the Middle East – and a Law Programme. It works in partnership with 52 organizations in more than 30
countries around the world.
Article 19 is a founding member of the Freedom of Information Advocates (FOIA) Network, a global
forum that aims to support campaigning, advocacy and fundraising on access to information through the
exchange of information, ideas and strategies. The FOIA Network also aims to facilitate the formation of
regional or international coalitions to address access to information issues.

Media Ethics

The issue of self censor has always been in view of the media people. And in particular it was
observed that some elements amongst the media were responsible for maligning the name of this
profession, many a media bodies prepared a code of ethics. The code is supposed to be practiced in letter
and spirit to ensure that the weapon of media is not proving detrimental for the society.
A specimen of the code is given below:


Adopted by the Second World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists at Bordeaux on 25-28 April 1954 and
amended by the 18th IFJ World Congress in Helsingör on 2-6 June 1986.
This international declaration is proclaimed as a standard of professional conduct for journalists engaged in
gathering, transmitting, disseminating and commenting on news and information and in describing events.
1. Respect for truth and for the right of the public to truth is the first duty of the journalist.
2. In pursuance of this duty, the journalist shall at all times defend the principles of freedom in the
honest collection and publication of news, and of the right of fair comment and criticism.
3. The journalist shall report only in accordance with facts of which he/ she knows the origin. The
journalist shall not suppress essential information or falsify documents.
4. The journalist shall use only fair methods to obtain news, photographs and documents.
5. The journalist shall do the utmost to rectify any published information which is found to be
harmfully inaccurate.
6. The journalist shall observe professional secrecy regarding the source of information obtained in
7. The journalist shall be aware of the danger of discrimination being furthered by the media, and
shall do the utmost to avoid facilitating such discrimination based on, among other things, race,
sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinions, and national or social origins.
8. The journalist shall regard as grave professional offences the following:
Malicious misrepresentation.
Calumny, slander, libel, unfounded accusations.
Acceptance of a bribe in any form in consideration of either publication or suppression.
9. Journalists worthy of that name shall deem in their duty to observe faithfully the principles stated
above. Within the general law of each country the journalist shall recognize in professional matters
the jurisdiction of colleagues only, to the exclusion of every kind of interference by governments or

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