The European Court of Justice reiterated that the press should receive particular protection in respect of freedom of expression since it was a pivotal tool for imparting information to the public. It is this information that permits the public to form opinions and ideas. Intricately tied to the press’s duty to impart information to the public is the public’s right to receive that information. Likewise the Inter-American Court of Human Rights endorses the importance of the role of the press for the protection of freedom of expression. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared that:
“It is the mass media that make the exercise of freedom of expression a reality. ” The link between free expression and freedom of the press is specifically alluded to in the First Amendment to the US Constitution which forbids Congress passing any law that stifles both free press and free expression. Despite this comity of nations there are differences in the approach taken by Western democracies with respect to restrictions on freedom of expression in the press. For instance the European Union endorses a policy of protection of privacy and sets limits to what is actually in the public interests.
The United States on the other hand places very little emphasis on the distinction between privacy and the public’s right to know. Be that as it may there are many Member States to the United Nations that promote authoritarian media control. In other words the media is permitted freedom of expression provided they do not publish anti-government material. The result is that the media is either subject to government intimidation or are intricately connected to the government. Singapore provides a good example of undemocratic media control by the government.
The government of Singapore refuses to tolerate critical reporting by either domestic or the foreign press. There have been incidents in which the foreign press inclusive of the Economist, Far Eastern Economic Review and the Asian Wall Street Journal have had their circulation suspended and in some instances reduced or levied with penal fines. In 2002, the Bloomberg information service in addition to being fined was ordered to apologize to the former Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew for publishing an article that inferred nepotism.
Freedom House 2002 described the freedom of expression via the press in Singapore as “one of most centrally controlled. ” Traces of authoritarian media control are found in other nations such as Russia, Columbia and Algeria. Freedom House 2002 reports that from 1992 to 2001 approximately 64 media reporters were killed in Algeria alone. Twenty-nine journalists were also killed during this period in Columbia with another 34 killed in Russia. In the Balkans another twenty-nine journalists were killed.