Press Freedom

“Freedom of the press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticise and oppose.”

George Orwell (1903 – 1950), English novelist and journalist
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LESSON OVERVIEW

This free ESL lesson plan on press freedom has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

A free press is one of the cornerstones of democracy, yet all around the world journalists find themselves under constant threat, and too often deadly attack. In the current political climate, many people have turned against the mainstream media, yet it is this same mainstream media we rely on to hold governments and those in power accountable. When the press cannot freely investigate and criticise those in power, democracy does not exist. In this ESL lesson plan on press freedom, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as how free the press should be to print what it likes, censorship and the risks that journalists face around the world.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for World Press Freedom Day, which takes place in May, or for the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, which takes place in November. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.

PRE-CLASS ACTIVITIES

Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

Brookings Institution | On World Press Freedom Day, Brookings experts reflect on the importance of a free press

To celebrate World Press Freedom Day, the Brookings institution invited a number of its current and former journalists to give their opinion of the importance of a free press, the threats facing journalists, and the effects of “fake news.” At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Students may also be interested in checking out the latest World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders to see where their country ranks.

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is a discussion hosted by the Washington Post called “Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index: Region-By-Region” which provides a summary of the issues faced by journalists around the world.

IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES

The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including whether the press should be able to write about the private lives of celebrities, who is to blame for press intrusion into people’s lives and recent stories about the private lives of politicians.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with press freedom such as censorship, super-injunction and phone hacking. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about press freedom. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as under what circumstances it would be acceptable to censor the news, why journalists face so many threats when investigating stories and the connection between press freedom and democracy.

HOMEWORK

After the class, students will write about their opinion of press freedom. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.

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