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|Censorship · Freedom of speech|
Self-censorship is the act of censoring or classifying one's own work (blog, book(s), film(s), or other means of expression), out of fear or deference to the sensibilities of others without an authority directly pressuring one to do so. Self-censorship is often practiced by film producers, film directors, publishers, news anchors, journalists, musicians, and other kinds of authors.
In authoritarian countries, creators of artworks may remove material that their government might find controversial for fear of sanction by their governments. In pluralistic capitalist countries, self-censorship can also occur, particularly in order to conform to the expectations of the market. For example, the editor of a periodical may consciously or unconsciously avoid topics that will anger advertisers or a parent company in order to protect their livelihood. This phenomenon is referred to as soft censorship.
News media are often accused of self-censorship because news media can face serious backlash for controversial or hasty reporting. On following this public demand, news media have been accused of "not taking any risks." For example, certain organizations (Media Matters for America, FAIR, Democracy Now!, and the ACLU) have raised concerns about news broadcasting stations (notably Fox News) censoring their own content to be less controversial when reporting on the War on Terror. However, this is not always attributed to self-censorship; there have been attempts by the authorities to pressure news organizations to withhold particular public information in the name of security.
In their seminal work Manufacturing Consent, Chomsky and Herman argue that corporate ownership of news media very strongly encourages systematic self-censorship due to market forces . Even with supposedly liberal media, bias and (often unconscious) self-censorship is evident in the selection and omission of news stories, and the framing of acceptable discussion, in line with the interests of the corporation owners (for example, see Media Lens).
There have also been instances beginning with the Gulf War and in subsequent conflicts, where journalists have actively sought censorship advice from military authorities in order to prevent the inadvertent revelation of military secrets. In 2009, The New York Times succeeded in suppressing news of a reporter's abduction by militants in Afghanistan for seven months until his escape from captivity in order to 'reduce danger to the reporter and other hostages'.
Journalists have sometimes self-censored publications of news stories out of concern for the safety of people involved. Jean Pelletier, the Washington D.C. correspondent for the Montreal La Presse newspaper, uncovered a covert attempt by the Canadian government to smuggle US diplomats out of Iran during the Iranian Hostage Crisis before the Canadian Caper had reached its conclusion. He refused to allow the paper to publish the story in order to preserve the safety of those involved, despite the considerable news value to the paper and writer. Pelletier’s story ran as soon as he knew the hostages had left Iran, but by exposing the operation, demolished plans by the U.S. to secretly house the six Americans in Europe while the hostage drama continued.
"Self-censorship" can also be found in scientific publications. Usually, a scientist can feel discouraged from releasing their findings because of a popular ideology or political agenda. Examples of self-censorship in scientific publications that have been criticized as politically motivated include scientists under the Third Reich withholding findings that disagreed with the commonly-held beliefs in differences between races, or the refusal of these scientists under Hitler to support General Relativity (which got the reputation as "Jewish science"). More recently, certain scientists have withheld their findings related to climate changes caused by pollution and to endangered species.
Professor Heinz Klatt argues that hate laws, speech codes, cowardice, and political correctness have resulted in an intellectually repressive atmosphere in modern day academic circles with widespread self-censorship on topics like homosexuality, (learning) disabilities, Islam, and genetic differences between human races and sexes.
Taste and decency are also areas which often raise questions on self-censorship. Debates involving images or footage of murder, terrorism, war and massacres cause complaints as to the purpose to which they are put. Editors will frequently censor these images to avoid charges of prurience, shock tactics or invasion of privacy.
Self-censorship is an important issue with the on-line news resources on which large parts of Wikipedia depends and is one of the justifications for including an "accessdate" with every link. It is taken for granted that articles on blogs can be seamlessly re-edited after people have read them, because the standard software allows it. However, since the archives of news stories held at online news sites such as BBC News or New York Times are under the control of the publisher, there is a strong temptation to withdraw or entirely delete all references to an informative article when its presence is perceived to be harmful to their reputation or commercial interests.
Examples include The Guardian withdrawing its extended interview and profile of Noam Chomsky in 2005 which was widely seen as a smear and subsequently apologized for by the editors, and the deletion of a 2006-12-21 Op-Ed piece by Daniel Johnson (journalist) in the New York Sun. There are many more notable examples.
Sometimes the old article is available in search engine caches. The website News Sniffer attempts to detect all changes that occur in the articles by regularly downloading articles and comparing with older copies.