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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a censor.



The rationale for censorship is different for various types of information censored:

  • Moral censorship is the removal of materials that are obscene or otherwise morally questionable. Pornography, for example, is often censored under this rationale, especially child pornography, which is censored in most jurisdictions in the world.
  • Military censorship is the process of keeping military intelligence and tactics confidential and away from the enemy. This is used to counter espionage, which is the process of gleaning military information. Very often, militaries will also attempt to suppress politically inconvenient information even if that information has no actual intelligence value.[citation needed]
  • Political censorship occurs when governments hold back information from their citizens. This is often done to exert control over the populace and prevent free expression that might foment rebellion.[citation needed]
  • Religious censorship is the means by which any material objectionable to a certain faith is removed. This often involves a dominant religion forcing limitations on less prevalent ones. Alternatively, one religion may shun the works of another when they believe the content is not appropriate for their faith.
  • Corporate censorship is the process by which editors in corporate media outlets intervene to halt the publishing of information that portrays their business or business partners in a negative light.[citation needed]

Political censorship

Nikolai Yezhov, the young man strolling with Joseph Stalin was shot in 1940. He was edited out from the photo by Soviet censors.[1] Such retouching was a common occurrence during Stalin's reign.

Strict censorship existed in the Eastern Bloc.[2] Throughout the bloc, the various ministries of culture held a tight rein on their writers.[3] Cultural products there reflected the propaganda needs of the state.[3] Party-approved censors exercised strict control in the early years.[4] In the Stalinist period, even the weather forecasts were changed if they had the temerity to suggest that the sun might not shine on May Day.[4] Under Nicolae Ceauşescu in Romania, weather reports were doctored so that the temperatures were not seen to rise above or fall below the levels which dictated that work must stop.[4]

Independent journalism did not exist in the Soviet Union until Mikhail Gorbachev became its leader; all reporting was directed by the Communist Party or related organizations. Pravda, the predominant newspaper in the Soviet Union, had a monopoly. Foreign newspapers were available only if they were published by Communist Parties sympathetic to the Soviet Union.

Possession and use of copying machines was tightly controlled in order to hinder production and distribution of samizdat, illegal self-published books and magazines. Possession of even a single samizdat manuscript such as a book by Andrei Sinyavsky was a serious crime which might involve a visit from the KGB. Another outlet for works which did not find favor with the authorities was publishing abroad.

The People's Republic of China, which continues Communist rule in politics, if not in the controlled economy, employs some 30,000 'Internet police' to monitor the internet and popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

Iraq under Baathist Saddam Hussein had much the same techniques of press censorship as did Romania under Nicolae Ceauşescu but with greater potential violence.

Cuban media is operated under the supervision of the Communist Party's Department of Revolutionary Orientation, which "develops and coordinates propaganda strategies".[5] Connecting to the Internet is illegal.[6] Critics of the Campaign finance reform in the United States claim that this reform imposes widespread restrictions on political speech.[7][8]

Censorship of state secrets and prevention of attention

The Rhodesia Herald of September 21, 1966.
Wieczór Wrocławia - Daily newspaper of Wrocław, People's Republic of Poland, March 20-21-21, 1981, with censor intervention on first and last pages --- under the headlines "Co zdarzyło się w Bydgoszczy?" (What happened in Bydgoszcz?) and "Pogotowie strajkowe w całym kraju" (Country-wide strike alert). The censor had removed a section regarding the strike alert; hence the workers in the printing house blanked out an official propaganda section. The right-hand page also includes a hand-written confirmation of that decision by the local "Solidarność" Trade Union.

In wartime, explicit censorship is carried out with the intent of preventing the release of information that might be useful to an enemy. Typically it involves keeping times or locations secret, or delaying the release of information (e.g., an operational objective) until it is of no possible use to enemy forces. The moral issues here are often seen as somewhat different, as the proponents of this form of censorship argues that release of tactical information usually presents a greater risk of casualties among one's own forces and could possibly lead to loss of the overall conflict.

During World War I letters written by British soldiers would have to go through censorship. This consisted of officers going through letters with a black marker and crossing out anything which might compromise operational secrecy before the letter was sent. The World War II catchphrase "Loose lips sink ships" was used as a common justification to exercise official wartime censorship and encourage individual restraint when sharing potentially sensitive information.

An example of "sanitization" policies comes from the USSR under Joseph Stalin, where publicly used photographs were often altered to remove people whom Stalin had condemned to execution. Though past photographs may have been remembered or kept, this deliberate and systematic alteration to all of history in the public mind is seen as one of the central themes of Stalinism and totalitarianism.

Censorship is occasionally carried out to aid authorities or to protect an individual, as with some kidnappings when attention and media coverage of the victim can sometimes be seen as unhelpful.[9][10]

Censorship of educational sources

A National Geographic Magazine censored by Iranian authorities. The offending cover was about the subject of love, and the picture hidden beneath the white sticker is of an embracing couple.[11] February 2006.

The content of school textbooks is often the issue of debate, since their target audience is young people, and the term "whitewashing" is the one commonly used to refer to selective removal of critical or damaging evidence or comment. The reporting of military atrocities in history is extremely controversial, as in the case of the Bombing of Dresden, the Nanking Massacre as found with Japanese history textbook controversies, the Armenian Genocide, The Holocaust (or Holocaust denial), the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and the Winter Soldier Investigation of the Vietnam War.

In the context of secondary-school education, the way facts and history are presented greatly influences the interpretation of contemporary thought, opinion and socialization. One argument for censoring the type of information disseminated is based on the inappropriate quality of such material for the young. The use of the "inappropriate" distinction is in itself controversial, as it changed heavily. A Ballantine Books version of the book Fahrenheit 451 which is the version used by most school classes[12] contained approximately 75 separate edits, omissions, and changes from the original Bradbury manuscript.

Censorship in music and popular culture

Music censorship has been implemented by states, religions, educational systems, families, retailers and lobbying groups – and in most cases they violate international conventions of human rights.[13]

Aside from the usual justifications of pornography, language and violence, some movies are censored due to changing racial attitudes or political correctness in order to avoid ethnic stereotyping and/or ethnic offense despite its historical or artistic value. One example is the still withdrawn "Censored Eleven" series of animated cartoons, which may have been innocent then, but are "incorrect" now.

Copy, picture, and writer approval

Copy approval is the right to read and amend an article, usually an interview, before publication. Many publications refuse to give copy approval but it is increasingly becoming common practice when dealing with publicity anxious celebrities.[14] Picture approval is the right given to an individual to choose which photos will be published and which will not. Robert Redford is well known for insisting upon picture approval.[15] Writer approval is when writers are chosen based on whether they will write flattering articles or not. Hollywood publicist Pat Kingsley is known for banning certain writers who wrote undesirably about one of her clients from interviewing any of her other clients.[citation needed]

Censorship of maps

Censorship of maps was also used in former East Germany, especially for the areas near the border to West Germany in order to make attempts of defection more difficult. Censorship of maps is also applied by Google maps, where certain areas are greyed out or areas are purposely left out-dated with old imagery.[16]

Meta censorship

In this form of censorship, any information about existence of censorship and the legal basis of the censorship is censored. Rules of censoring were classified. Removed texts or phrases were not marked.

Creative censorship

In this form of censorship, censors rewrite texts, giving these texts secret co-authors. This form of censorship is used in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Censorship implementation

The former Soviet Union maintained a particularly extensive program of state-imposed censorship. The main organ for official censorship in the Soviet Union was the Chief Agency for Protection of Military and State Secrets generally known as the Glavlit, its Russian acronym. The Glavlit handled censorship matters arising from domestic writings of just about any kind—even beer and vodka labels. Glavlit censorship personnel were present in every large Soviet publishing house or newspaper; the agency employed some 70,000 censors to review information before it was disseminated by publishing houses, editorial offices, and broadcasting studios. No mass medium escaped Glavlit's control. All press agencies and radio and television stations had Glavlit representatives on their editorial staffs.

Censored pre-press proof of two articles from "Notícias da Amadora", a Portuguese newspaper, 1970

Sometimes, a specific and unique information whose very existence is barely known to the public, is kept in a subtle, near-censorship situation, being regarded as "subversive" or "inconvenient". Michel Foucault's 1978 text "Sexual Morality and the Law" (later republished as "The Danger of Child Sexuality"), for instance - originally published as La loi de la pudeur [literally, "the law of decency"], defends the decriminalization of statutory rape and the abolition of age of consent laws.

When a publisher comes under pressure to suppress a book, but has already entered into a contract with the author, they will sometimes effectively censor the book by deliberately ordering a small print run and making minimal, if any, attempts to publicize it. This practice became known in the early 2000s as privishing.[17]

Internet censorship

Internet censorship is control or suppression of the publishing or accessing of information on the Internet. The legal issues are similar to offline censorship. One difference is that national borders are more permeable online: residents of a country that bans certain information can find it on websites hosted outside the country. A government can try to prevent its citizens from viewing these even if it has no control over the websites themselves.

Barring total control on Internet-connected computers, such as in North Korea and Cuba, total censorship of information on the Internet is very difficult (or impossible) to achieve due to the underlying distributed technology of the Internet. Pseudonymity and data havens (such as Freenet) allow unconditional free speech, as the technology guarantees that material cannot be removed and the author of any information is impossible to link to a physical identity or organization.

In November 2007, "Father of the Internet" Vint Cerf stated that he sees government control of the Internet failing due to private ownership.[18]

The Australian government announced in December 2009 that it will introduce highly controversial internet censorship legislation before the next Australian federal election.[19]

Censorship by country

See also


Citations and notes

  1. ^ The Commissar vanishes (The Newseum)
  2. ^ Major & Mitter 2004, p. 6
  3. ^ a b Major & Mitter 2004, p. 15
  4. ^ a b c Crampton 1997, p. 247
  5. ^ "10 most censored countries". The Committee to Protect Journalists. 
  6. ^ "Going online in Cuba: Internet under surveillance". Reporters Without Borders. 2006. 
  7. ^ "The Trick of Campaign Finance Reform". Christian Science Monitor. 
  8. ^ "Felonious Advocacy". reason. 
  9. ^ New York Times
  10. ^ The Raw Story | Investigative News and Politics
  11. ^ Lundqvist, J.. "More pictures of Iranian Censorship". Retrieved August 2007-01-21. 
  12. ^ Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Del Rey Books. April 1991.
  13. ^ "What is Music Censorship?". 1 January 2001. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  14. ^ Ian Mayes (2005-04-23). "The readers' editor on requests that are always refused". The Guardian.,,1468351,00.html. Retrieved August 2007-01-21. 
  15. ^ "Caution: big name ahead". The Observer. 2002-01-27.,6903,639829,00.html. Retrieved August 2007-01-21. 
  16. ^ Jenna Johnson (Jul. 22, 2007). "Google's View of D.C. Melds New and Sharp, Old and Fuzzy". News. Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-07-22. 
  17. ^ Winkler, David (11 July 2002). "Journalists Thrown 'Into the Buzzsaw'". 
  18. ^ Cerf sees government control of Internet failing
  19. ^ [1]

General information

  • Abbott, Randy. "A Critical Analysis of the Library-Related Literature Concerning Censorship in Public Libraries and Public School Libraries in the United States During the 1980s." Project for degree of Education Specialist, University of South Florida, December 1987. ED 308 864
  • Burress, Lee. Battle of the Books. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1989. ED 308 508
  • Butler, Judith, "Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative" (1997)
  • Foucault, Michel, edited by Lawrence D. Kritzman. Philosophy, Culture: interviews and other writings 1977–1984 (New York/London: 1988, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-90082-4) (The text Sexual Morality and the Law is Chapter 16 of the book).
  • O'Reilly, Robert C. and Larry Parker. "Censorship or Curriculum Modification?" Paper presented at a School Boards Association, 1982, 14 p. ED 226 432
  • Hansen, Terry. The Missing Times: News media complicity in the UFO cover-up, 2000. ISBN 0-7388-3612-5
  • Hendrikson, Leslie. "Library Censorship: ERIC Digest No. 23." ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education, Boulder, Colorado, November 1985. ED 264 165
  • Hoffman, Frank. "Intellectual Freedom and Censorship." Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1989. ED 307 652
  • Marek, Kate. "Schoolbook Censorship USA." June 1987. ED 300 018
  • National Coalition against Censorship (NCAC). "Books on Trial: A Survey of Recent Cases." January 1985. ED 258 597
  • Ringmar, Erik A Blogger's Manifesto: Free Speech and Censorship in the Age of the Internet (London: Anthem Press, 2007)
  • Small, Robert C., Jr. "Preparing the New English Teacher to Deal with Censorship, or Will I Have to Face it Alone?" Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English, 1987, 16 p.
(Arguing that an English teacher should get advice from school librarians in preparing to encounter three levels of censorship:
  1. Rejection of adolescent fiction and popular teen magazines as having low value,
  2. Experienced colleagues discouraging "difficult" lesson plans,
  3. Outside interest groups limiting students' exposure. ED 289 172)


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Quotes regarding Censorship.

  • "Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads."
  • "All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship."
  • "Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself."
  • "The Internet treats censorship as a defect and routes around it."
  • "There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women's Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme."
  • "Only six weeks ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from the novel. Students, reading the novel which, after all, deals with the censorship and book-burning in the future, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony. Judy-Lynn Del Rey, one of the new Ballantine editors, is having the entire book reset and republished this summer with all the damns and hells back in place."
  • "You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. Yet in their hearts there is unspoken - unspeakable! - fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts! Words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home, all the more powerful because they are forbidden. These terrify them. A little mouse - a little tiny mouse! -of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic."
  • "If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all."
  • "Don't join the book burners. Don't think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed."
  • "If the human body's obscene, complain to the manufacturer, not to me."
  • "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
  • "If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed."
  • "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."
  • "Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure way against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is freedom. The surest path to wisdom is liberal education."
  • "Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings."
  • "Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their children the authorized ones only."
  • "The last half of the 20th century will seem like a wild party for rich kids, compared to what's coming now. The party's over, folks. . . [Censorship of the news] is a given in wartime, along with massive campaigns of deliberately-planted "Dis-information". That is routine behavior in Wartime— for all countries and all combatants— and it makes life difficult for people who value real news."
  • "Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it."
  • "But the truth is, that when a Library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn't anger me."
    • Mark Twain, Letter to Mrs. F. G. Whitmore (7 February 1907)
  • "In the mean time, don't worry about the millions of hardcore bukkake, gang-bang, and rape sites your filters miss, satire sites should be your top priority. Irresponsible parents who can't be bothered with supervising their children will thank you for it."
  • "An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all."
  • "Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won't have as much censorship because we won't have as much fear."
  • "It's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers."
  • It seems that, that splendid source for all kinds of information, is no longer dedicated to the truth, assuming it ever was.
    Individuals who have tried to edit the pages about Barack Obama — to reflect the incontrovertible fact that he is not God, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, or Ronald Reagan — report that their contributions have vanished within minutes of posting them, and that they, themselves, have been suspended for three days following each 'infraction'.
    When some sort of official at Wikipedia was contacted about this, she stonewalled, claiming that this censorship was the work of 'volunteers', implying they were somehow beyond control of Wikipedia itself.
    Like the Red Guard and the Khmer Rouge were 'volunteers'.
    • L. Neil Smith, "Announcifications From Your Publicatorialist: Wikipedia, Missouri, and Ceres,"[1] (15 March 2009)
Wikipedia has an article about:
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

This article from the 1922 extension to the 1911 encyclopedia is an update of the information in the article Press Laws.

CENSORSHIP. - The World War brought about various forms of restriction of publicity in the shape of a censorship, which provides a new chapter in the history of the Press Laws (see 22.299).

(1) UNITED KINGDOM. - The following note to newspaper editors, dated July 27 1914, was the first official intimation to the British press of the approach of war: "At a meeting of the Admiralty War Office and Press Committee, held this afternoon, it was resolved that as, in view of the present situation, the authorities may have to take exceptional measures, the Press should be asked to refrain from publishing any information relative to movements of British warships, troops, and aircraft, or to war material, fortifications, and naval and military defences, without first communicating with the Admiralty and War Office respectively in accordance with the arrangement which was notified to you by me in January of last year.

" Having regard to the nature of the case it is found impossible further to indicate the character of the information the publication of which is undesirable in the national interests. The request does not affect the dissemination of news concerning ordinary routine movements or training on the part of the Navy or the Army; its object is to prevent the appearance of anything concerning steps of an exceptional kind which may be rendered necessary by the existing state of affairs.

"I may add that the authorities from time to time will continue to issue such information as may be made public." The " Admiralty War Office and Press Committee " had been formed in 1911, mainly through the efforts of Mr. (afterwards Sir) Reginald Brade, to establish a permanent liaison in peace and war between the Admiralty and the War Office on the one hand and the Press on the other. The Committee consisted of representatives of the two departments and the London and provincial newspapers. Apart from the Official Secrets Act, no legislation existed which enabled the authorities or the Committee to suppress the publication of naval and military information. Notwithstanding this, the whole of the newspapers loyally observed the Committee's request, followed by others of a more detailed character, dated July 29 and 3 o respectively. The result was that the British preparations were made with such secrecy that the Germans subsequently admitted that on - Aug. 20 they knew neither when nor where the British troops were landed, nor their strength.

On Aug. 7 the Press Bureau (the outward and visible sign of the censorship) was established by Lord Kitchener, acting in conjunction with Mr. Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty. The first Director of the Bureau was Mr. F. E. Smith, M.P., afterwards Lord Birkenhead. He was followed by Sir Stanley (afterwards Lord) Buckmaster, who was succeeded by Sir Frank Swettenham jointly with the late Sir Edward Cook. In the first instance the Bureau was located in a tumble-down building in Whitehall, backing on to the Admiralty. Later it was removed to the United Service Institution.

The objects of the Press Bureau were: (r) The censoring of incoming and outgoing press cablegrams and certain inland press messages, chiefly those passing through the General Post Office. By order of the Government the former were diverted to the Bureau by the Post Office and cable companies.

(2) To issue to the newspapers official information received from other Government departments.

(3) To censor matter voluntarily submitted by the Press.

It should be mentioned here that the censoring of news by the Bureau was, for the most part, carried out in accordance with the wishes of the various Government departments concerned - the Admiralty, the War Office, the Foreign Office, the Home Office, etc., with the result that the whole of the criticism was directed against the Bureau, which served as a sort of buffer state. In short, the Directors of the Bureau had to do as they were told. It was an open secret that in some instances they disagreed with the policy they were called upon to enforce. On the whole they performed a thankless duty with considerable ability. Upon Lord Birkenhead fell the difficult task of organizing the department and establishing regulations to deal with conditions altogether unprecedented. The work of his successors was hardly less onerous as fresh problems constantly presented themselves throughout the war. About fifty censors were employed, comprising naval officers (appointed by the Admiralty), military censors (appointed by the War Office), and civilians, including ex-civil servants, barristers and journalists.

The Bureau was kept open day and night. On Aug. 8 1914 the Defence of the Realm Act was passed, followed a few days later by a series of censorship regulations as authorized by its provisions. These regulations were of a far-reaching character. They were amended from time to time and in their final form stood as follows: Reg. 18. No person shall, without lawful authority, collect, record, publish or communicate, or attempt to elicit, any information with respect to the movement, numbers, description, condition or disposition of any of the forces, ships, or aircraft of His Majesty or any of His Majesty's allies, or with respect to the plans or conduct, or supposed plans or conduct, of any operations by any such forces, ships, or aircraft, or with respect to the supply, description, condition, transport or manufacture, or storage, or place or intended place of manufacture or storage of war material, or with respect to any works or measures undertaken for or connected with, or intended for the fortification or defence of any place, or any information of such nature as is calculated to be or might be directly or indirectly useful to the enemy, and if any person contravenes the provisions of this regulation, or without lawful authority or excuse has in his possession any document containing any such information as aforesaid, he shall be guilty of an offence against these regulations... .

No person shall, without lawful authority, publish or communicate any information relating to the passage of any ship along any part of the coast of the United Kingdom.. .

Reg. 27. No person shall by word of mouth or in writing or in any newspaper, periodical, book, circular, or other printed publication (a) Spread false reports or make false statements; or (b) spread reports or make statements intended or likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty, or to interfere with the success of His Majesty's forces or of the forces of any of His Majesty's allies by land or sea, or to prejudice His Majesty's relations with foreign powers; or (c) spread reports or make statements intended or likely to preju- :lice the recruiting of persons to serve in any of His Majesty's forces, or in any body of persons enrolled for employment under the Army Council or Air Council or entered for service under the direction of the Admiralty, or in any police force or fire brigade, or to prejudice the training, discipline or administration of any such force, body, or brigade; or (d) spread reports or make statements intended or likely to undermine public confidence in any bank or currency notes which are legal tender in the United Kingdom or any part thereof, or to prejudice the success of any financial measures taken or arrangements made by His Majesty's Government with a view to the prosecution of the war;.. .

The maximum penalty was imprisonment with or without hard labour for six months or a fine not exceeding £ioo, or both. Prosecutions had to be instituted by the Director of Public Prosecutions in England, the Lord Advocate in Scotland, or the Attorney-General in Ireland. The Regulations (Regulation 51) gave the Government power in certain cases to seize the plant of a newspaper which had offended, or in others to seize the type on suspicion that an offence was about to be committed (Reg.5r a). These regulations placed heavy shackles upon the Press, but in the main they were accepted with patriotic equanimity. Prosecutions were few in number, which is surprising considering the length and magnitude of the war. It will be seen that the Press Bureau had no power to insist upon the submission of matter for censorship. The responsibility rested with the editor, who could publish what he thought fit, subject to complying with the Defence of the Realm Regulations. If he erred he was liable to prosecution, and even if the matter were passed by the Bureau he would not be relieved of the responsibility for infringement of the regulations, although the fact might be pleaded in mitigation. From time to time secret instructions were issued by the Bureau for the information and guidance of editors. At the end of the war these numbered several hundred. At intervals they were collected and issued in pamphlet form. For the most part they consisted of hints and elucidations concerning matters which in general terms were covered by the regulations quoted above. Cable and Postal Censorship. - In addition to the Press Bureau, censorships of incoming and outgoing cables, letters and parcels, were established by the War Office at the commencement of the war with the three-fold object of preventing information of military value from reaching the enemy, of acquiring similar information for British purposes and of checking the dissemination of information likely to be useful to the enemy or prejudicial to the Allies. Chief Censors of both departments were appointed by the Army Council.

The cable censorship extended throughout the Empire, and the number of persons employed in the United Kingdom, exclusive of those in the Press Bureau, was about 200. In other parts of the Empire they numbered about 400. The size of the task may be judged from the fact that 30,000 to 50,000 telegrams passed through the hands of the censors in the United Kingdom every twenty-four hours.

In the postal censorship, exclusive of clerical and post-office employees, a staff of 5,500 was employed comprising 3,451 women and persons with a knowledge of almost every foreign language. The department was divided into three branches - (r) the section which censored the correspondence of prisoners of war in the United Kingdom and British prisoners in enemy countries; (2) the private correspondence section which dealt with letters from members of the British Expeditionary Force, letters and parcels to and from certain foreign countries, press messages sent abroad by other means than cable, and newspapers. In this branch more than a ton of mail matter was censored every week, exclusive of parcels; (3) the trade branch, which censored commercial correspondence with certain foreign countries, amounting to nearly four tons per week.

At the commencement, the system caused serious irritation amongst the commercial classes, to which point was given by foolish and, in some cases, amusing errors made by the censors. It must, however, be recognized that on the whole the work was well and efficiently done. The officers chiefly responsible were Gen. (afterwards Sir George) Macdonogh, Gen. Cockerill, Col.

A. E. Churchill followed by Lord Arthur Browne, Chief Cable Censor, and Col. G. S. H. Pearson followed by Col. A. S. L. Farquharson, Chief Postal Censor.

In the early part of the war a great outcry was made by the British (and also the American) newspapers concerning the working of the Press cable censorship in London. In numerous instances, Press cables received in England were entirely suppressed without notice to the sender or addressee, and in others messages were so mutilated as to be indecipherable. These complaints led to a declaration by the Foreign Office on Dec. 20 1915, that in future incoming press cablegrams would not be censored from a political point of view; the responsibility of publishing would be with the editors who knew that a prosecution against them, under the Defence of the Realm Act, might result from the publication of anything endangering the good relations between Great Britain and the Allies or the Neutrals. This change, however, only applied to censorship by the Foreign Office, and messages were still liable to censorship from the point of view of other departments (Admiralty, War Office, Home Office or Treasury, for instance) consulted by the Press Bureau - a system which continued until 1919.

Table of contents

Censorship at the Front

It remains to deal with the censorship of messages from authorized British correspondents on the several fronts. These were primarily (and compulsorily) censored by military censors on the field, but they all came through the Press Bureau, which occasionally exercised a super-censorship. The methods adopted caused constant grumbling and discontent.

The casualty lists were rigidly and, no doubt, properly suppressed, but owing to the representations of the Newspaper Proprietors' Association they were supplied periodically for the confidential information of editors.

In France, at the outset, no correspondents were allowed. In Sept. 1914, owing to demands by the Newspaper Proprietors' Association for more information, an official eye-witness, Gen. Swinton, was appointed. He wrote according to order, and no question of censorship arose. The news supplied was meagre and inappropriate, and it did not take long for mischievous results to accrue, and the official mind was at first disposed to blame the Press for what was wrong in the " publicity " of the moment. On March 12 1915, the following notice was issued by the Press Bureau, warning the newspapers that they were too optimistic in the pictures they gave of what was happening: " The magnitude of the British task in this great war runs serious risk of being overlooked by reason of exaggerated accounts of successes printed daily in the Press and especially by exhibiting posters framed to catch the eye and magnify comparatively unimportant actions into great victories. Reported reverses to the enemy are proclaimed as crushing defeats, Germany is represented as within measurable distance of starvation, bankruptcy and revolution, and only yesterday a poster was issued in London, declaring that half the Hungarian army had been annihilated.

" All sense of just proportion is thus lost, and, with these daily, and often hourly, statements of great Allied gains and immense enemy losses, the public can have no true appreciation of the facts or of the gigantic task and heavy sacrifices before them.

" The Director appeals to all those who are responsible for the Press to use their influence to bring about a better knowledge of the real situation, and rather to emphasize the efforts that will be necessary before the country can afford to regard the end for which we are striving as anything like assured. The posters, more especially those of the evening papers, are very often preposterous as well as misleading, and, at such a time, those responsible may fairly be asked to exercise a reasonable restraint and help the nation to a just appreciation of the task it has undertaken and the necessity for unremitting effort to secure the only end that can be accepted." The newspapers did not take this notice " lying down." On March 26 the Newspaper Proprietors' Association, through its chairman Sir George (afterwards Lord) Riddell, sent the following letter to the Press Bureau, and copies to the Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Churchill, Lord Kitchener and other members of the Cabinet: "My Council have had under consideration your Memorandum of 12th March, 1915, Serial No. D. 183, for which, in their opinion, there is no adequate justification. The Press has dealt faithfully with the news furnished by the naval and military authorities, but it may well be that the public misunderstand the situation and that this misconception is producing serious results. If, however, the people are being unduly soothed and elated the responsibility lies with the Government and not with the Press. In this connection my Council desire to direct your attention to the optimistic statements of the Prime Minister, Sir John French, ' Eye-Witness,' and other persons possessing official information. The Press acts upon the news supplied. If this is inaccurate or incomplete, the Government cannot blame the newspapers. My Council desire to represent that the methods now being adopted are fraught with grave public danger. Ministers are continually referring to the importance of energy and self-sacrifice on the part of the industrial population, who cannot be expected to display these qualities unless, generally speaking, they are acquainted with the facts.' In dealing with the news, the Naval and Military authorities should consider not only our enemies and the army in the field, but the commercial and industrial classes at home, upon whom so much depends. It is futile to endeavour to disregard the long-established habits and customs of the people.

"As you know, I am writing on behalf of the London Press only, but my Council are confident that their views are shared by the provincial newspapers." The result of this letter was that Mr. Asquith invited the Association to lay their views before him at a deputation. A free exchange of views took place, with the result that Mr. Asquith invited the Press to appoint a representative who would interview Lord Kitchener and Mr. Churchill each week with the object of putting questions to them and receiving private information for circulation to editors. Lord Riddell was detailed for the duty, and had frequent interviews with Lord Kitchener.

As a result of further urgent representations by the Association, represented by Lord Burnham, Lord Northcliffe and Sir George Riddell, the following correspondents were authorized in May 1915 - Mr. John Buchan (Times and Daily News), Mr. Percival Landon (Daily Telegraph and Daily Chronicle), Mr. (afterwards Sir) Percival Phillips (Morning Post and Daily Express), Mr. Valentine Williams (Daily Mail and Standard), Mr. Douglas Williams (Reuters). Mr. John Buchan was succeeded by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Perry Robinson, Mr. Percival Landon by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Philip Gibbs, and Mr. Valentine Williams by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Beach Thomas. Mr. Douglas Williams was succeeded by Mr. Lester Lawrence and Mr. (afterwards Sir) Herbert Rundell.

At the beginning, the regulations for the guidance of correspondents were as follows, but for the most part they were allowed to write as they wished.

"Unless officially communicated for publication," the undermentioned matters were not to be referred to: - Strength, composition and location of forces.

Movement of troops and operations.

State of supply and transport.


Important orders.

Criticisms and eulogies of a personal nature.

Moral of troops.

Before long, however, the regulations were rigidly enforced, and an attempt was subsequently made to strengthen them. A fresh set of rules was promulgated at G.H.Q. in Nov. 1915. They took this form (1) Current events must not be mentioned in detail until the events have been made public in the commander-in-chief's despatches.

(2) Only general mention of the fighting can be made. Nothing outside the official communiques is to be touched upon.

(3) Matters of controversial or political interest must be excluded.

(4) Praise or censure is to be left to the commander-in-chief.

(5) Mention of any information by name is prohibited, including such items as the New Army, Territorials, etc., also names of units or individuals.

(6) The articles of war correspondents must be confined to topographical descriptions and generalities.

(7) Detailed information obtained by war correspondents can be used only when permission is given, and the time of publication will vary according to circumstances.

These regulations called forth an angry protest from the Newspaper Proprietors' Association. The War Office denied all knowledge of them and they were withdrawn. The severe restrictions on the liberty of the correspondents led to continual complaints by the Association. Notwithstanding these, no marked improvement took place until July 1917. From that date onwards the stringency of the censorship was gradually relaxed, and the army eventually set up an organization to supply correspondents with information, so that in dealing with the German advance in the spring of 1918 they were able to write with freedom. By the exercise of tact, discretion and inviolable good faith, the correspondents gradually won the confidence of the army, so that towards the end of the war officers of all ranks were keen to have them with their troops and to give them every facility permitted by official regulations. A great victory was thus achieved and a great service rendered by the correspondents to the country and the Press.

Until Nov. 1917 the censorship was controlled by the Intelligence Department at G.H.Q. At that date it was transferred to a department known as Staff Duties. The difficulties were accentuated by the lack of association between the correspondents and the real head of the censorship at G.H.Q. The man who gave the orders did not censor the " copy," and was not in continuous and direct touch with those who did. The censors worked under great pressure, and the complaints were due chiefly not to their decisions, but to the principles laid down by those in command at G.H.Q. A minor difficulty was due to the necessity for making the despatches correspond with the daily official communique - the official account of the day's fighting. Nothing could be said by the correspondents that differed from the communiques, which usually came out after the despatches had been written. The head of the Intelligence Department until Nov. 1917 was Gen. Charteris. During the whole of the war the chief cause of complaint was the refusal of the authorities to permit the correspondents to identify the units taking part in particular operations, or, in other words, to name the troops engaged. Where the unit was mentioned, neither the date of the event nor the locality in which it occurred was to be specified. The regulations in this respect were meticulous. Even obituary notices were censored. In the later phases of the war the rule was occasionally relaxed, but generally speaking it held until the Armistice.

At other military fronts than France the system adopted was similar, but special difficulties occurred in regard to the despatches from Mesopotamia, which were censored at the Front, in India and at home.

The Naval Censorship

The navy had its own censorship department at the Admiralty, under the superintendence of Sir Douglas Brownrigg. This department worked partly through the Press Bureau and partly by direct relations with the Press. Generally speaking, the policy adopted was to suppress all information concerning the doings of the navy and allied forces and in particular events of an unfavourable character. Very little information was published concerning the mercantile tonnage sunk by the enemy. There was, however, much to be said for the suppression of these figures, the publication of which would have put fresh heart into the enemy and given them valuable information as to the effect of the submarine campaign. In many instances the German submarine crews were unaware of the effect of their operations.

The Home Front

A rigid censorship was exercised concerning the publication of information as to the production of munitions, measures of defence, bombardments, air raids, arrests, trials and executions of spies, etc.

Books, Magazines, etc. - These were subject to censorship on the same principles as newspapers. In many cases the authorities refused permission to reproduce matter which had already appeared in American and other publications, whether true or not, the contention being that publication in England would tend to confirm and increase belief in the statements made.

General Comments

As a method of suppression the censorship during the war may be regarded as having been a complete success. The vast task was well and efficiently done, but the authorities displayed little imagination, and during the first two and a half years failed to realize that the war was a conflict between nations, not armies. They did not fully appreciate that the united effort of all classes was essential to victory, and that such effort could be secured only by telling the people the facts and letting them know that the war was a matter of life or death to the nation (see Propaganda). Experience showed that in dark days the country always rose to the occasion. The authorities also failed to appreciate the necessity for telling other peoples, and in particular the Overseas Dominions and America, what Great Britain was doing. When the war commenced the War Office and the army were full of explosive and inaccurate ideas regarding the Press. Lord Wolseley had said that the special correspondent was the curse of the modern army. This spirit pervaded the services during the earlier stages of the war, notwithstanding the voluntary action of the newspapers in suppressing naval and military information in July and Aug. 1914. Maj.-Gen. Sir C. E. Callwell, who was the head of the Intelligence Department at the War Office when the war started, says in his Experiences: of a Dug-Out (1920): - " It speedily became apparent that the Powers-that-Be' did not mean to be expansive in connexion with incidents where our side was getting the worst of it." He also acknowledges that the Press was badly treated by the War Office and G.H.Q. at the outset and that he was placed in the uncomfortable position of administering a policy which he disliked and which he believed to be entirely mistaken. In short, the Press was regarded with distrust and suspicion. These feelings were gradually removed after constant protests, but not until the war had been in progress for nearly three years was a system evolved which by degrees gave the correspondents a reasonable amount of freedom. The rule prohibiting them, except in rare cases, from describing the achievements of the different units, who were thus robbed of the glory to which they were entitled, had most unfortunate results. The public yearned to know what the soldiers and sailors were doing, and the information was withheld from them. The Australian, Canadian and New Zealand censorships adopted a different system, so that the exploits of these troops were and are well known throughout the world. This led to the circulation of malicious stories to the effect that Great Britain was not doing her share, and that she was preserving her soldiers at the expense of those furnished from overseas. A reference to the terrible weekly casualty lists would at once prove the falsity of this statement. The truth is that so far as the British effort is concerned, the main burden was borne by troops furnished from Great Britain. Owing to the action of the British censorship, this fact is still imperfectly understood in other countries. The effects of the policy of silence were not confined to the war. Great Britain suffers from them permanently. In America and elsewhere the stupendous character of the British performances and sacrifices has been inadequately appreciated because they were not made known at the time. It is doubtful whether the people in Great Britain have fully realized themselves what they accomplished. During the war the Press was engaged in a continuous battle with the departments for more information. It was rarely possible to ascertain who was responsible for the policy of silence. The motives were laudable. What the authorities lacked was vision. The Press fully understood the necessity for secrecy in regard to forthcoming naval and military movements and also in reference to many naval and military operations. But there were other matters which might have been described had the authorities recognized the necessity for giving due publicity to what the nation was doing in the war. As already explained, the policy of secrecy was not confined to naval and military operations. It was only after continued protests by the Newspaper Proprietors' Association that publicity was given to the gigantic achievements of the Ministry of Munitions, and the manufacturers and millions of workers associated with it. Nothing was published about the marvellous working of the railways, one of the most remarkable feats in history. The Admiralty was a great offender. It was stated officially that " the Navy did not wish for publicity." The result was that the wonderful British seamen, including the mercantile marine, mine-sweepers and fishermen, did not receive adequate recognition of their services to the Allies. After continued representations by the newspapers, more publicity was given to their doings in the later stages of the war.

It must, however, be recognized that the censorship bristled with difficulties. It was necessary to prevent the enemy from receiving information; it was necessary to avoid publishing information that would unnecessarily alarm British people or their Allies, or mislead neutrals as to the progress of the war; and it was also necessary for British censors to pay due regard to the censorship policies of other countries with whom Great Britain was associated. The authorities may be excused for their' inability in the early days of the war to grasp the essential facts of the situation, but they laid themselves open to severe criticism for the delay in realizing that a change of policy was necessary. See Government Papers Cd. 7679 and Cd. 7680 (1915); Sir Edward Cook, The Press in Wartime (1920); Sir Philip Gibbs, Realities of War (1920); Neville Lytton, The Press and the General Staff (1921) Maj.-Gen. Callwell, The Experiences of a Dug-Out (1920); Sir Douglas Brownrigg, The Indiscretions of a Naval Censor (1919). (RI.) (2) United States. - American Federal legislation in the matter of censorship shows nothing comparable to the British and French Government censorship of newspapers. The Federal Government had no traditions of censorship except the disastrous ones in connexion with the Alien and Sedition laws of 1798. The First Amendment to the Constitution stated that " Congress shall make no law. .. abridging the freedom of speech or of the press... ." There had been no sufficient number of cases before 1917 to afford a clear interpretation of this, except that it had been held to be as binding in war as in peace (Milligan case, 71.U.S.2). In the first weeks after the United States had declared war, Congress rejected an amendment to the Espionage Act that would have established a censor's bureau. Recognizing that a war involving the whole nation necessitated full information, the President established a Committee on Public Information on April 14 1917. This agency for publicity concerning war efforts and purposes developed into a great news agency and a means of distribution of patriotic propaganda. Its only direct relation to the control of the press was a request made by it in the name of the Secretaries of State, War and the Navy that newspapers censor themselves in the matter of news that might help the enemy or embarrass the Government. There was no legal force behind this. It was generally observed but with much grumbling and denunciation of the chairman of the Committee, Mr. George Creel, as a " censor." The adherence of Congress and the President to the traditions of a free press and free speech in simply requesting a voluntary censorship was striking, but it was more in appearance than in reality. It seemed exceptional, for in addition to the usual reasons which justified the other belligerents in instituting official press bureaus and censors to control seditious utterances, the United States faced conditions unknown to them. It was the domicile of about 4,000,000 unnaturalized citizens of the Central Powers - " enemy aliens," to use an old and misleading phrase that was revived. In addition there were millions more born in those lands and using their languages, who had become citizens legally. During two and a half years of neutrality, the free and acrimonious discussion of the war and its issues had filled the Press, and been incessant in every home and community and school as well as in Congressional debates. The propaganda agencies of all the nations, and especially of the Central Powers, had flooded the mails, used the lecture platforms and organized their semiofficial press. The country had heard much of the German espionage system, spies were suspected everywhere, and many acts of sabotage, arson, and violence in factories engaged in munition production were ascribed to them. The activities of German agents, some real and many imagined, seemed to call for vigorous action. In other respects, too, the United States departed from its old individualistic tendencies, as in instituting the draft, regulating food, raising huge loans, observing meatless days and sending an army of 2,000,000 to fight in Europe. That wise and necessary restraint did not more often give way to oppression and violence is amazing in a country where the frontier had but recently disappeared.

The fact that no new agency was established to control the Press did not mean that communication, the Press and public speech were to continue to be unrestricted. On April 6 1917, the day war was declared, the radio stations were taken over by the Department of the Navy under the law of 1912. On April 28 the President placed the cables in charge of the same department and the dispatch of messages and use of codes was strictly regulated. On the latter date the telegraph lines were placed in charge of the War Department but transferred later to the Post Office Department when the Government took over the telegraph and express companies. Under the old Internment Statute of 1789, the Attorney-General was authorized by the President to intern dangerous enemy aliens and by an Act of Congress the Alien Property Custodian assumed charge of enemy aliens' property.

So far Federal officials were acting under pre-war legislation including the old Treason law. The earliest war measures aimed at sedition and disloyalty had as a background the passage of the conscription or Selective Service law. It was a great venture in legislation for the United States. The possibility of interference with its enforcement was clearly in mind in the Espionage Act (June 15 1917), which provided that (Section 3, title t): " Whoever when the United States is at war, shall wilfully make or convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies, and whoever when the United States is at war, shall wilfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall wilfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both." The last of these clauses was the one oftenest invoked by Federal legal officers. Another section declared non-mailable all written or printed matter which violated any provision of the Espionage Act. This Act was not amended until May 1918 by the Passport and Sabotage Acts and the so-called " Sedition Law." The latter, a loosely drawn statute based on an Act of the state of Montana, sought to suppress all utterances of a disloyal character. It provided punishments up to 20 years' imprisonment for anyone who published " any language intended to bring the form of Government of the United States or the Constitution into contempt, scorn, contumely and disrepute." It opened the possibility for all kinds of complaints and prosecutions by those whose judgment was affected by war hysteria. The Federal Attorney-General, his assistant and the 88 U.S. district attorneys were flooded with silly complaints and beset by unofficial disloyalty hunters and amateur detectives, but kept their heads in most cases remarkably well, as did most of the judges. In the end no prosecutions were permitted until the Attorney-General reviewed the facts and gave authorization. The meaning of this statute was not interpreted by the Supreme Court until 1919, after the fighting was over. Not till then did the courts of first instance have a uniform and controlling indication that the relation between words alleged to be criminal and the armed forces of the nation must be direct enough to constitute " a clear and present danger." Before this, state and Federal courts had taken wide latitude in considering the " general tendency " of utterances. Men had been convicted for criticizing the Red Cross, doubting the utility of knitting socks for soldiers, using abusive and intemperate language in arguments about the war or producing such a motion picture as The Spirit of '76 which in one part represented British soldiers using bayonets at the Wyoming valley massacre. The obsession that the country was full of German spies persisted until 1918, although Federal officers had broken up German espionage early in the war.

The prosecutions and deportations, especially those instituted by Mr. A. Mitchell Palmer, the new Attorney-General, were subjects of most bitter complaint as the war ended. Federal legislation was supplemented by Acts of even a more drastic character, in most of the states. Many of the state Acts on sedition bear date of 1919, i.e. after the close of the war and therefore subject to application and interpretation in fields quite unrelated to the nation's safety during war. In 25 states the display of a red flag was a specified offence. The other source of complaint against Federal activity was the judicially unreviewable power exercised by the Postmaster-General, Mr. Burleson, in closing the mails to journals of which he disapproved. This control was most often exercised by cancelling their classification as second-class matter entitled to low mailing rates. This virtual exclusion from the mails was continued to the financial ruin of some newspapers even though the objection was based on the material in only one issue. Much bitter comment (some of it partisan) and discontent were aroused by the action of the Postmaster-General.

So far as the foreign language press was concerned there were about 750 newspapers in the 14 chief language groups with whose attitude the Government was chiefly concerned. Most of these regularly published the official news from Washington concerning war activities and purposes. The President was empowered under the Trading with the Enemy Act (Oct. 6 1917), to require that translations of political views and comment touching the United States or any other nation engaged in the war should be filed with the post-office officials at the mailing point in the case of all foreign language publications. Exemption from this rule by special permit was allowed and freely granted. The Post Office Department was designated by executive order as responsible for the enforcement of these measures. In the same Act a very inclusive section gave the President complete power to control any form of communication to be delivered directly or indirectly to any enemy or ally of enemy, or communications of any sort between the United States and any foreign country. By executive order of Oct. 12 the enforcement of this was put in the hands of a Censorship Board composed of the Secretaries of War and the Navy, the Postmaster-General, the chairman of the War Trade Board and the chairman of the Committee on Public Information. This body made the necessary regulations and by Dec. 11 1917 had gathered a large staff at the necessary ports to enforce them. The regulations in no way modified the voluntary censorship exercised by the Press over itself.

About 6,000 out of 4,000,000 " alien enemies " were interned or put under restraint. In all, 1,532 persons were arrested under the Espionage Act.; about 75 more for threats against the President or for sabotage. There were 908 indictments for conspiracy. Acquittals and cases pending reduced the number of those actually convicted under the Espionage Act to about 600. The best-known case was that of Eugene V. Debs, former Socialist candidate for president, who was sentenced to 10 years in a Federal prison for a speech opposing the war and denouncing war as the work of capital. Others were the suppression of The Masses, a radical monthly, the cases of Abrams, Goldstein, Kate O'Hare, Berger, Rose Pastor Stokes, and the I.W.W. cases (Haywood and 92 others).

Beyond the realm of Federal action were the state laws, drastic in some cases, and the executive orders of some zealous governors and state defence councils who saw danger in speaking foreign languages in public or over the telephone, or teaching German in the schools, or using certain text-books. There was sometimes a lack of discrimination between the parties essentially loyal, representing agrarian or labour discontent, and those of their leaders whose purposes and sentiments were doubtful. There was also the sort of unofficial censorship, undefined by law but real, which communities exercised against those who had been pro-German or who were now less ready than their neighbours thought fitting to subscribe for loans and the Red Cross, and to observe food regulations.

On the whole, however, it is doubtful if all these legal and extra-legal activities in a nation of ioo,000,000 were serious enough to justify any general condemnation of war legislation, the courts, and the nation. The quick reaction and sharp criticism of unfortunate acts and decisions indicated that free speech and free press were still basic ideals in the United States.


- Official Bulletin (for executive orders); annual reports of the Attorney-General, Postmaster-General, etc.; Willoughby, Government Organization in War Time and After (1919); Creel, How We Advertised America (1920). Chafee's Freedom of Speech (1920) is a full and critical account with extensive bibliography. See especially J. L. O'Brian, " Civil Liberty in War Time " in Proceedings of New York State Bar Association, Jan. 1919.

(G. S. F.)

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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|150px|Newspaper articles censored from "Noticias da Amadora", a Portuguese newspaper, 1970]]

Censorship is when certain facts changed or left out on purpose. It is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a censor. This can be done for different reasons. 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 because he supported the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun (and not the other way round), or the Iranian leader of the time, Ayatollah Khomeini banning the Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. In the same manner, some fundamentalist Christians are against the scientific theory of evolution, and have not wanted evolution taught in schools. In Romania, many schools no longer teach evolution. [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.

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.


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

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.


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