Censorship

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Newspaper articles censored from "Noticias da Amadora", a Portuguese newspaper, 1970
Title page of the Index Librorum prohibitorum, a listing of books the Catholic Church banned, published in the 17th century

Censorship is when certain facts are changed or removed on purpose. It is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which some people might consider wrong, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations. This can be done for different reasons.

A censor is a person whose job is to look at all types of media and remove material. There are many reasons to censor something, like protecting military secrets, stopping immoral or anti-religious works, or keeping political power. Censorship is almost always used as an insult, and there is much debate over what censorship is and when it is okay.

When there is freedom of speech and freedom of the press, most information can published. However, even in developed countries with much freedom of the press, there are some things that cannot be published. For example, journalists are usually not allowed to publish many secrets about the military, like where troops will be sent on a mission. Pornography is censored in some countries because it is seen as not moral. For these reasons, the government might arrest anyone who publishes it.

Reasons[change | change source]

Most often things are censored for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Moral censorship: It is thought that certain facts may be inappropriate for the audience. There are many countries that limit who may see pornography. Additionally, it may be forbidden to show or write about certain forms of pornography, such as child pornography.
  • Military censorship: In a war, all news reports might be censored. This is done to guarantee that the enemy cannot get information that might be used to plan an attack. Very often, this includes the size of military troops, but also the strategies and tactics used
  • Political censorship: A government (or a political party) may hold back certain kinds of information. This is done to avoid rebellions or embarrassment.
  • Religious censorship: Often, there is a dominant religion which removes or changes certain kinds of information. Examples for this are the Vatican censoring Galileo Galilei, or the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini banning The Satanic Verses, a novel by Salman Rushdie. In Romania, many schools no longer teach evolution, and many schools in the US and UK refuse to discuss Creationism.[1]
  • Corporate censorship: (Often large) businesses stop the publication of material because it shows some of their business idea, or their employees in a bad light.

Debate[change | change source]

There is much debate about when censorship should be allowed. For example, U.S. President Richard Nixon censored the New York Times when they tried to publish articles about the Pentagon Papers, a group of classified military documents that showed that Nixon and the military lied about the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court in New York Times Co v. United States overturned the censorship, saying that Nixon had not shown it would be dangerous to the military, just embarrassing. In other countries, journalists and bloggers (who are usually not seen as journalists) are sometimes arrested for saying bad things about the government. In Egypt, Kareem Amer was famously arrested for insulting Islam and calling the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, a dictator. [2]

Non-governmental censorship[change | change source]

Governments are not the only ones who censor information. For example, when the history department at Middlebury College did not allow professors to accept Wikipedia as a source in papers, some said it was censorship.[3] This was because the department was telling professors (who usually have academic freedom) what works they should and should not accept. Sometimes, a group or a website will not allow some facts, articles, and pictures that they do not think should be seen. There is much debate over the difference between censorship and editing, that is, deciding what should or should not be published.

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]