Social Media and the Freedom of the Press: a long-term Perspective from within International News Agencies (AFP, Reuters)

Michael PALMER, Jérémie NICEY


Abstract: Since the 1780s, discussions among news professionals on issues such as access to sources and the funding of “the media” are often at odds with issues debated by legislators, activists, the executive and the judiciary, in the USA, France and Britain. Is this the case today, with the debate on “social media”, the “Arab spring”, Internet, blogs, SMS, “Twitter” and the like? This is one issue that will be addressed. The authors have researched the history and present news-products and performance of AFP and Reuters (now Thomson-Reuters) for many years. The second issue addressed here is: how do news-professionals assess current geopolitical and technological “changes” with respect to their established canons and practices of news-reporting? How do they access, filter, and select from the apparent abundance of sources emerging from “civil society actors”, while respecting established practices of news-agency journalism? As the very notion of “mainstream media” encompasses an ever-growing number of actors (CNN is “mainstream”, al-Jazeera has become ‘mainstream’…), is the issue of access to an ever-widening number of sources to be reassessed in terms not only of the freedom of the media but also to that of the resources available to “seasoned, reputable” news-professionals and their organizations to check, cross-check the “images”, “texts” and numbers emanating from these sources? Issues such as the freedom of the media are ever-more linked to that of the canons of international news-reporting. The authors argue that whereas the freedom of the media is still of central importance, the advent of communications technologies – and the commercial logics that underpin them – often linked to the Internet, radically modify how news-professionals go about their business, in an era of “globalization”, “social media” and “democratization”.

Keywords: international news-flows, professional news-persons, citizens, democratization, “Arab spring”, media freedoms


Résumé : Depuis la fin du 18è siècle, les échanges entre les professionnels de l’information à propos de thèmes tels l’accès aux sources et le financement des « medias » abordent autrement, le plus souvent, les thèmes débattus à cet égard par les pouvoirs exécutif, législatif, judiciaire et « citoyen » – et ce, aux Etats-Unis, en France et au Royaume-Uni. Est-ce encore le cas aujourd’hui, où l’on débat, dans le désordre, des « médias sociaux », du « printemps arabe », de l’Internet, des blogs, des SMS, de Twitter et de leurs avatars? Cette interrogation sous-tend cet article. Ses auteurs explorent l’histoire des agences d’information, l’AFP et Reuters (devenue Thomson-Reuters), leurs produits et prestations depuis longtemps. Un deuxième thème sous-tend également cet article. Comment les professionnels de “l’info” pensent-ils les conséquences des mutations géopolitiques et techniques en cours par rapport à leurs critères et pratiques de collecte et de traitement de l’information?

Mots-clés : flux internationaux de nouvelles, professionnels des médias, citoyens, démocratisation, « printemps arabe », libertés des médias


Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

On line ISSN 1775-352X
Paper ISSN 2066-5083


The opinions expressed in the texts published are the author’s own and do not necessarily express the views of ESSACHESS editors. The authors assume all responsibility for the ideas expressed in the published materials.

Les idées et les opinions exprimées dans les textes publiés dans la revue n' engagent pas la responsabilité de l'éditeur. Les opinions exprimées dans les articles n'engagent que leurs auteurs.