War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power


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He called for a measure that was "simple and flexible" to ensure that the House was able to discuss whether it should give its approval for military action. Treaties are another important category of overseas commitments for which Ministers need no formal parliamentary approval. Under the Ponsonby rule the Government lays before Parliament any treaty requiring ratification at least 21 days before ratification is effected.

Yet the rule does not require that either House should debate the measure. Treaties are no longer restricted just to high diplomacy and security.

They can involve, for example, vital economic matters with profound effects on Britain and the world, including agreements between the United Kingdom and organisations such as the World Trade Organisation and the IMF. Lord Lester of Herne Hill was among those who believed that treaties should be given more systematic parliamentary scrutiny: "treaties reach into every nook and cranny of our lives.

It is, I think, anomalous that Parliament has almost no role in the process of ratification of important treaties and it is done entirely under the prerogative". Mr Hague called for "an agreed system for parliamentary approval of international treaties", suggesting that "a new parliamentary procedure needs to be devised, with hearings before a select committee or special standing committee followed by a vote on the floor of the House of Commons to approve or not approve a treaty, and with the possibility of reasoned amendment but not detailed amendment".

The management of the Civil Service is carried out by Ministers under prerogative powers, regulated by Orders in Council that can be amended, supplemented or withdrawn without parliamentary approval. We have recently published a Report explaining our view that this is no longer an appropriate state of affairs and containing a draft civil service Bill. We therefore see civil service issues as something of a special case among the prerogative powers we examined.

The Government has regularly promised to consult on civil service legislation, and our inquiry found that there was widespread agreement that early action is required to enshrine the values of the service in statutory form. Following the publication of our draft Civil Service Bill, the Government announced that a draft Bill would be published in the current Session of Parliament. Mr Hague went further, arguing that Parliament should, like the US Congress, be asked to approve all major Government reorganisations: "the Wilson government, the Heath government, and the Blair government, more recently, have implemented major changes to the structure of Whitehall: abolishing some government departments, merging others.

To my constituents in rural North Yorkshire, the creation of DEFRA in was as important an event in the way they are served by the government of the day as the passage of most legislation. I believe that should have parliamentary oversight, should require parliamentary approval, and that a bill should have to be passed through the whole of Parliament to reorganise the machinery of government". Mr Hague recognised that lengthy debate of the kind that occurred when the US administration created the new Department of Homeland Security would thus be required.

He was, however, entirely content with the prospect of such debate, explaining: "It is a major disincentive to reorganise things, of course, creating such a rule, but that, I believe, would be no bad thing, since most such reorganisations are hugely expensive and a substitute for policy-making rather than an aid to it". Public appointments In previous reports, we have made clear our view that Parliament should play a much more effective role in the most important public appointments, which Ministers make using prerogative powers.

Cheryl Saunders 'The Scope of Executive Power'

In particular, we are attracted to the idea of hearings in which select committees could question successful candidates for major appointments as to their fitness for the post. Passports Passports are granted and revoked by Ministers using prerogative powers. Lord Lester saw this as having important implications for human rights: "it seems to me entirely anomalous that the right to freedom of movement, which is a fundamental right, should be subject, at least in theory, entirely to the prerogative, unregulated by Parliament".

Honours are currently awarded as a matter of prerogative. In view of the recent debate about the honours system stimulated in part by the Committee's publication of the papers which resulted from a Government review of [ 31 ] we have decided to undertake a separate, detailed inquiry into that system. A number of witnesses have already called for greater public involvement and independent scrutiny of the honours system, which would in itself reduce the scope of the Ministerial prerogative in that area.

We intend to produce a separate report on this subject later in the year.

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The Privy Council: "the cloak that covers" Mr Hague vividly described the Privy Council as "the cloak that covers" a variety of important activities. Mr Hague, himself a Privy Counsellor, told us that he believed that many of the prerogatives exercised through the Council "should be subject to the democratic control of Parliament".

He saw little point in using the Privy Council "cloak" in many cases, including the establishment of groups of privy counsellors to examine telephone tapping and other security matters: "I think those groups are groups of people with Executive responsibility who happen to be privy counsellors, rather than needing to be privy counsellors".

He said "it would make no practical difference" if such groups simply met as groups of Ministers without such cover. Payne and M. Before freedom of the press became commonplace, however, journalists relied on different authorities for their right to practice. In some countries, such as England , the press relied on a license of the king.

Even today, many countries do not have established freedom of the press. In some countries, such as China , media are official outlets of the government and must not stray too far from accepted government doctrine.

Freedom of the press - Wikipedia

Other press outlets are religious mouthpieces and likewise hold views close to those of their sponsoring religions. The English revolution of resulted in the supremacy of Parliament over the Crown and, above all, the right of revolution. The main theoretical inspiration behind Western liberalism was John Locke. In his view, having decided to grant some of his basic freedoms in the state of nature natural rights to the common good, the individual placed some of his rights in trusteeship with the government.

War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power

A social contract was entered into by the people, and the Sovereign or government was instructed to protect these individual rights on behalf of the people, argued Locke in his book, Two Treatises of Government. Until , England had an elaborate system of licensing. No publication was allowed without the accompaniment of a government-granted license.


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Fifty years earlier, at a time of civil war , John Milton wrote his pamphlet Areopagitica. In this work Milton argued forcefully against this form of government censorship and parodied the idea, writing, "when as debtors and delinquents may walk abroad without a keeper, but unoffensive books must not stir forth without a visible jailer in their title. Milton's central argument was that the individual is capable of using reason and distinguishing right from wrong, good from bad.

One form of speech that was widely restricted in England was the law of seditious libel that made criticizing of the government a crime. The King was above public criticism and statements critical of the government were forbidden, according to the English Court of the Star Chamber. Truth was not a defense to seditious libel because the goal was to prevent and punish all condemnation of the government. John Stuart Mill approached the problem of authority versus liberty from the viewpoint of a nineteenth century utilitarian : The individual has the right of expressing himself so long as he does not harm other individuals.


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The good society is one in which the greatest number of persons enjoy the greatest possible amount of happiness. Applying these general principles of liberty to freedom of expression, Mill states that if one silences an opinion, one may silence the truth. The individual freedom of expression is therefore essential to the well-being of society. If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and one, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

The dictatorship of Adolf Hitler largely suppressed freedom of the press through Joseph Goebbels ' Propaganda Ministry. As the Ministry's name implies, propaganda did not carry the negative connotations that it does today or did in the Allied countries ; how-to manuals were openly distributed by that same ministry explaining the craft of effective propaganda.

The Ministry also acted as a central control-point for all media, issuing orders as to what stories could be run and what stories would be suppressed. Anyone involved in the film industry—from directors to the lowliest assistant—had to sign an oath of loyalty to the Nazi Party, due to opinion-changing power Goebbels perceived movies to have. Goebbels himself maintained some personal control over every single film made in Nazi Europe.

Australian media companies unite for press freedom campaign - Nine News Australia

Journalists who crossed the Propaganda Ministry were routinely imprisoned or shot as traitors. The Indian Constitution, while not mentioning the word "press," provides for "the right to freedom of speech and expression" Article 19 1 a. However this right is subject to restrictions under subclause 2 , whereby this freedom can be restricted for reasons of "sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, preserving decency, preserving morality, in relation to contempt of court, defamation , or incitement to an offence.

Under PoTA, a person could be detained for up to six months for being in contact with a terrorist or terrorist group. For the first half-century of independence, media control by the state was the major constraint on press freedom. Indira Gandhi famously stated in , that All India Radio is "a Government organ, it is going to remain a Government organ….

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Organizations like Tehelka and NDTV have been particularly influential, for example in bringing about the resignation of powerful Haryana minister Venod Sharma. John Hancock was the first person to write newspapers in the British colonies in North America, published "by authority," that is, under license from and as the mouthpiece of the colonial governors.

The first regularly published newspaper was the Boston News-Letter of John Campbell, published weekly beginning in The early colonial publishers were either postmasters or government printers, and therefore unlikely to challenge government policies. The first independent newspaper in the colonies was the New-England Courant, published in Boston by James Franklin beginning in A few years later, Franklin's younger brother, Benjamin , purchased the Pennsylvania Gazette of Philadelphia , which became the leading newspaper of the colonial era.

During this period, newspapers were unlicensed, and able freely to publish dissenting views, but were subject to prosecution for libel or even sedition if their opinions threatened the government. The notion of "freedom of the press" that later was enshrined in the United States Constitution is generally traced to the seditious libel prosecution of John Peter Zenger by the colonial governor of New York in The Supreme Court declared the order unlawful in Youngstown Sheet , [] and President Truman complied with the decision. In his concurring opinion, Justice Jackson summed up the perils of executive emergency powers and the importance of legislative and judicial checks to the preservation of liberty.

The executive action we have here originates in the individual will ofthe President and represents an exercise of authority without law. No one,perhaps not even the President, knows the limits of the power he may seek toexert in this instance, and the parties affected cannot learn the limit oftheir rights.

We do not know today what powers over labor or property wouldbe claimed to flow from Government possession if we should legalize it, whatrights to compensation would be claimed or recognized, or on whatcontingency it would end. With all its defects, delays and inconveniences,men have discovered no technique for long preserving free government exceptthat the Executive be under the law, and that the law be made byparliamentary deliberations.

Such institutions may be destined to pass away. But it is the duty ofthe Court to be last, not first, to give them up. Some would answer that such prerogative—a worrisome but necessary executive power—ultimately cannot be restrained by the constitutional order. As an extralegal power, exercise of the prerogative can only be challenged in turn by another extralegal power. That opposite force is the people, exercising their right to resist tyranny and reconstitute political society. As liberals counter-argue, this security-focused argument presents risks to democratic institutions, the rule of law, and individual rights.

It also leaves little constitutional correction to executive abuses, other than a mass swell of popular opposition.

War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power
War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power
War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power
War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power
War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power
War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power War and Press Freedom: The Problem of Prerogative Power

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