The media industry has undergone dramatic changes in its technologies and business models. To help us understand the effects of these changes on democracy, Books and Ideas takes the discussion away from simplistic dichotomies between the Internet and the so-called “traditional” press.

“Traditional” media admitted so much when they covered the Arab Spring: the revolutionary democratic movements witnessed in the Middle East and the Maghreb were made possible by a revolution in the media. It is yet too soon to tell whether the Internet and the social networks will continue to support truly democratic regimes. Restrictions on the freedom of the press remain commonplace, and not just in dictatorial regimes: wiretapping in France, a restrictive new media law in Hungary, and various forms of controls in Israel or China have made headlines in recent months. Economically, much has changed too, as the viability of entire sectors of the news industry is being called into question. New ways of reporting, sharing information, and participating in its creation have appeared; they have led many to wonder about the new role of the press in democratic life.

Beyond the question of the regime of the press, it is the regime of opinion itself that seems bound to change. Ever more concentrated press conglomerates will vie with new media to decide whether the press will keep its autonomy or not. We are promised both the end of a free press and the beginning of a new era of democratic and media freedom.

Books and Ideas has asked philosophers, sociologists and historians to help us make sense of this conundrum. The result is here published in English for the first time.

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by Émilie Frenkiel & Jeanne Moisand, 13 December 2011

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Émilie Frenkiel & Jeanne Moisand, « Press and Democracy », Books and Ideas , 13 December 2011. ISSN : 2105-3030. URL :

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