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AMERICAN FREEDOM OF PRESS

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Sunanda K. Chavan
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AMERICAN FREEDOM OF PRESS - October 29th, 2010

Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. 12/15/1791.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Freedom of Expression

It is often said that one of the rights protected by the 1st Amendment is the freedom of expression. But "expression" is not used in the amendment at all. This term has come to be used as shorthand, a term of art, for three of the freedoms that are explicitly protected: speech, petition, and assembly. While the use of "freedom of expression" is ubiquitous in this area of 1st Amendment study, it is important to note exactly what "freedom of expression" refers to.

(Absolute) Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution does protect the freedom of speech of every citizen, and even of non-citizens — but only from restriction by the Congress (and, by virtue of the 14th Amendment, by state legislatures, too). There are plenty of other places where you could speak but where speech can and is suppressed. For example, freedom of speech can be and often is restricted in a work place, for example: employers can restrict your right to speak in the work place about politics, about religion, about legal issues, even about Desperate Housewives.

The same restrictions that apply to the government do not apply to private persons, employers, or establishments. For another example, the government could not prohibit the sale of any newspaper lest it breech the freedom of the press. No newsstand, however, must carry every paper against its owners' wishes.
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