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Communication, Freedom and Change, Vol. 7 - 2000, No. 4

Communication is Freedom: Karl Marx on Press Freedom and Censorship

, pages: 85-100[open access]

Karl Marx addresses issues of freedom and communication during his brief career as editor of the Rheinische Zeitung and Neue Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne, Germany between 1843 and 1849 with remarkable clarity and intensity. His quest for freedom and the disclosure of truth are cornerstones of resistance to official attempts to manipulate the understanding of freedom as license to act and to suggest that truth is relative and determinable by public authorities. Marx identifies editorial practices with freedom of expression that belongs to working journalists as an individual or collective right that governs the relations between journalists and public and private authorities, including the owners of the press itself; freedom of the press, on the other hand, as an economic consideration is a professional prerequisite for intellectual labour. His ideas offer real alternatives to current debates over freedom of the press and contemporary conditions of journalism: to sustain democracy requires freedom of expression and the protection of the public sphere, including the media, particularly from forms of censorship that arise with the control of intellectual labour by those who own or influence the means of public communication.

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