In 1735, Peter Zenger was tried for libel in the Colony of New York. His trial established the freedom of the press.
John Peter Zenger was an eighteenth-century printer, publisher and journalist from New York.
Zenger had emigrated to New York from the German Palatinate region. His newspaper, the New York Weekly Journal, was funded by one of the opposition political factions in New York, probably that of James Alexander and William Smith, who used it to criticize the governor of the colony.
New York Colony Governor William Cosby filed a suit of libel against him in 1734, to end the criticism. But on August 5, 1735, the twelve jurors of New York rendered a verdict of "not guilty", without even deliberating, a judgment whose announcement was followed by three successive bursts of applause.
The next day, Zenger was released after 35 weeks of captivity. The failure of the prosecution for "venomous, slanderous and seditious" attacks against the British government was a decisive factor in the colony's assertion of an essential principle of freedom of the press: the right to criticize government authorities.