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Journalism Worthy of the Name: A Human Rights Perspective on Freedom within the Press


  • Herdis Thorgeirsdottir

Summary, in English

There is much tension between the conception of the press as a private enterprise subject to the logic of the market and the press as an instrument of democracy. One of the broken promises of democracy is the failure of the market in guaranteeing a vigorous political debate. The European Court of Human Rights has ascribed to the press the vital role of Public Watchdog, making it incumbent on it to bring fulfilment to the public’s right to know. The subject of this study is ‘freedom within the press’, the nature and limits of the protection afforded to the journalistic imparting process, which has been a neglected area of research. How are journalists to carry out the fiduciary duty of the press when the situation within the media is like an ‘iron cage’, reflected in the vast power asymmetry between the press as a corporate actor with immense power to shape public opinion and the Public Watchdog composed of individual journalists whose professional freedoms are wholly dependant on corporate contexts. The analysis draws strength from the classical defenders of freedom of speech, Milton and Mill, to show that at the dawn of the 21st century, an almost insurmountable obstacle is inherent in the intertwined alliance between big business and public authorities resulting in the widespread phenomena of self-censorship within the media. Instead of enlightening the public and inspiring the individual the press may be conducing to an inert public and individual cowardice antithetical to the objectives of human dignity and democracy. The core of the problem is that prima facie the infringement of freedom within the media is not exercised on legal premises and cannot therefore be solved within the legal framework. The operation of the press in society is conditioned by three types of regulation, legal regulation, market regulation and self-regulation. Legal regulation does not adequately presuppose the impact of the latter as it is based on the assumption that press freedom is mainly a negative liberty. The book explores the affirmative side of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is one of the most advanced forms of any kind of international legal processes, in guaranteeing press freedom that is not merely illusory but practical and effective so that the press can live up to its positive requirements. Convention jurisprudence has not only influenced domestic courts of the Contracting Parties but also the legislators of the Member States. In an era of globalization dominant media operators wield such power in their own domestic markets to impede national regulators in resorting to interventionist media policies to secure journalistic freedoms. The Convention jurisprudence represents a kind of European ius commune, which is here set in context of an analysis reflecting the problems and values at issue and offering recommendations to close the gap between a situation threatening democratic ideals and public-spirited journalism permeating all aspects of society.


Publishing year




Document type



Lund University


  • Law


  • positive requirements
  • dignity
  • democracy
  • Public Watchdog
  • European Convention on Human Rights
  • Article 10
  • journalism
  • freedom within the press




  • [unknown] [unknown]

Defence date

21 March 2003

Defence time


Defence place

Carolinasalen, Kungshuset, Lundagård in Lund


  • Kevin Boyle (Prof.)