Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech is often regarded as an integral concept in modern liberal democracies, where it is understood to outlaw censorship. The right to freedom of speech is guaranteed under international law through numerous human rights instruments, notably under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, although implementation remains lacking in many countries. The synonymous term freedom of expression is sometimes preferred, since the right is not confined to verbal speech but is understood to protect any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.
The right to freedom of expression is not absolute; governments may still prohibit certain damaging types of expressions. Under international law, restrictions on free speech are required to comport with a strict three part test: they must be provided by law, pursue an aim recognized as legitimate, and be necessary (i.e., proportionate) for the accomplishment of that aim. Amongst the aims considered legitimate are protection of the rights and reputations of others (prevention of defamation), and the protection of national security and public order, health and morals. It is generally recognised that restrictions should be the exception and free expression the rule; nevertheless, compliance with this principle is often lacking.
Freedom of the Press
Freedom of the press is liberty to print or to otherwise disseminate information, as in print, by broadcasting, or through electronic media, without prior restraints such as licensing requirements or content review and without subsequent punishment for what is said. Freedom of the press, which has been limited not only by governments but at times by churches, is absolute in no country. In modern democracies it is rarely attacked by overt forms of censorship but is often compromised by governments' ability to withhold information, by self-censorship in reaction to various pressures, by selective government “leaking” of information or disinformation, and by other factors.
In the United States, freedom of the press and the broader freedom of speech (see speech, freedom of) are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and are considered fundamental rights of the people. In practice, though, some kinds of speech and publication (e.g., obscenity or violations of copyright) are considered outside the amendment's purview, and others, like commercial speech (advertising or product claims), receive a reduced level of protection. In addition, broadcasters are subject to government licensing requirements. The protections to be afforded users of on-line computer services, the Internet, and other new means of publication are the focus of a developing debate; in 1996 a federal district court panel struck down the new Communications Decency Act, holding that Internet communications were entitled to the same degree of protection as printed communications.