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Civil Liberties
Guide: Freedom of the Press

These resources provide background and context for understanding freedom of the press, a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Use these primary and secondary sources to help students explore events, ideas, and court decisions related to freedom of the press and explore why it is a fundamental part of U.S. democracy. Use the Export to My Lists button above to turn this into a research list for your students.

Theme Key Understandings

  • Civil liberties and civil rights are related but distinct and can be in conflict with each other
  • Government documents provide a framework for the protection of civil rights and liberties in a society
  • The judicial branch interprets and defines civil liberties and civil rights as they apply in practice
  • Civil liberties protect against government overreach
  • Civil rights assure equal protection under the law
  • The attainment of civil rights is an ongoing process, with different groups achieving parity at different times
  • The judicial branch is tasked with finding a balance between the protection of individual liberty and maintaining positive social order

Key Questions

  • Explain why freedom of the press is important to maintaining a functioning democracy.
  • What two rules has the Supreme Court established regarding freedom of the press?


  1. Overview: Freedom of the Press
  2. Visuals: Freedom of the Press (Visual)
  3. Outline: Outline
  4. Transcript: Transcript
  5. Lesson: Introduction
  6. Lesson: 1-Colonial Roots of a Free Press
  7. Lesson: 2-Limitations on the Press
  8. Lesson: 3-Prior Restraint
  9. Lesson: 4-Confidential Sources
  10. Lesson: Closing
  11. Glossary Terms: press
  12. Photos & Illustrations: Zenger trial: Andrew Hamilton defending John Peter Zenger at 1735 trial
  13. Reference Articles: First Amendment
  14. Reference Articles: freedom of press and broadcast media
  15. Reference Articles: Zenger trial
  16. Reference Articles: Supreme Court: Freedom of Press Cases
  17. Political, Government & Court Documents: Grosjean v. American Press Co. (1936)
  18. Political, Government & Court Documents: Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo (1974)
  19. Political, Government & Court Documents: Near v. Minnesota (1931)
  20. Political, Government & Court Documents: Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart (1976)
  21. Political, Government & Court Documents: New York Times Co. v. United States (1971)

MLA Citation

"Freedom of the Press." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Support/Content/2156136?cid=256. Accessed 6 Dec. 2019.

Entry ID: 2156136

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