Defining Freedom of the Press : A Cross national examination of press ethics and regulation in ten European countries

This project, led by Dr John Steel at University of Sheffield, explores freedom of the press in principle and practice in the UK and overseas, with a view to developing a clear definition of freedom of the press for use by the press itself and civil society. By examining the regulatory environments and press ethics codes of a number of European countries, this research seeks to offer thoughtful, empirically-grounded and critical reflection on the optimum conditions for freedom of the press in the UK, with a view to developing recommendations that will feed into the ongoing UK debate about press ethics and regulation.

Given that the contemporary converged and global news media environment transcends traditional newspapers and broadcasters, the research problematizes the idea of ‘the press’. It will therefore examine how ‘news-work’ is affected by ethics codes and regulatory environments so as to better define the scope of ‘freedom of the press’ outside of its traditional parameters. It will also examine how those who consume the press or are affected by it understand and rationalise the concept of ‘freedom of the press’.

By using document analysis, interviews, focus groups, stakeholder workshops and even a MOOC and public exhibition, the research will develop a set of recommendations and benchmarks for freedom of the press that more accurately reflect the current news-work environment, and better serve both the press as a set of institutions and the public who rely on the press to understand and interpret events.

As a leading expert on privacy law and the legal aspects of press freedom/press regulation (Wragg, 2015) and having been involved with IMPRESS since its inception, Dr Wragg’s will examine the normative and descriptive claims made about privacy, press regulation and press freedom in the UK (England and Wales) and Strasbourg (European Court of Human Rights) jurisprudence (Wragg, 2016).

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