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.
– The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
After the U.S. Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, the Framers adopted the Bill of Rights. The first freedoms guaranteed in this historic document were articulated in the 45 words we have come to know as the First Amendment.
The First Amendment is our blueprint for personal freedom and the hallmark of an open society. It protects freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.
A free press informs the people and serves as their mouthpiece; its value to our democracy cannot be overstated. Media access is key to having an open government and a free society. The First Amendment is key to ensuring this access and allowing all voices to be heard.
Nevertheless, press freedoms are routinely challenged both by the denial by government of access to public records and proceedings and the placement of restrictions on what may be published. Unfortunately, individual journalists and the general public are often unaware of their rights and without resources to turn back these challenges. Thus, the ideal of the free press is too often unfulfilled.