The aim of this research is to analyse the role of censorship in the modern world and answer the question whether or not are all forms of censorship wrong. Henry Reichmann (Censorship and selection: issues and answers for schools) defines censorship as “(…) the removal, suppresion, or restricted circulation of literary, artistic, or educational materials- of ideas, images, and information –on the grounds that these are morally or otherwise objectionable in light of standards applied by the censor” (Reichmann: XXX).
The issue of censorship has been widely discussed over the past years. Whether or not the media should be subject to censorship is a bone of contention among politicians but even ordinary people hardly ever stay indifferent when they are asked about their view on controlling the information and ideas circulated within a society. The opponents of censorship often argue that it is the hallmark of dictatorship. Such reasoning is not devoid of logic and reason. Many people have attempted banning others from reaching certain informations over the course of history.
As early as in the year 213 BC the emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi, commanded that all the books which tackled subjects not considered practical be burned. The emperor did it for fear of criticism which might have been included in the books. (Philip Steele, Censorship). It cannot be denied that censorship is often used in totalitarian countries as a means of banning its citizens from inconvenient truths. Such was also the case during the Bejing 2008 Olympic Games when certain western websites could not be accessed from China. Indeed, censorship is often misused.
However, before jumping to the conclusion that all forms of censorship are wrong one should consider a variety of daily life situations when the control exerted by the authorities over the mass media turns out to be beneficial. Censorship, however, is not always carried out by dictators and governments obsessed with power. In many cases, it is used for the benefit of people. Article 20 of the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says that “any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence must be prohibited”.
The abovementioned proclamation consists a great example of how censorship may be used in just cause. Banning foul language from tv shows, controlling children’ access to pornography by restricting it’s broadcasting time, disallowance of the images of extreme violence in the press are the reasons for considering censorship to be a boon to society as long as it is used wisely and thoughtfully. During the Global Internet Liberty Campaign GILC in 2005, the opponents of censorship claimed that censorship is “a hallmark of dictatorships”.
Such reasoning is understandable when one takes into account all the atrocities and foul deeds connected with the problem of censorship which have taken place recently, such as the Olympic Games 2008 in Bejing, Anna Politkowska’s murder in Russia and the banning of images of war by the US government to name just a few. China is the country which has the most immense surveillance and internet censorship system in the world according to the Human Rights Watch report 2008 (HRW:2008).
It should not come as a surprise that the Chinese government did not refrain from infringing human rights even during the 2008 Olympic Games which took place in the capital of China – Bejing. Human Rights Watch reported that part of the country’s preparation to the Olympiad consisted of ensuring that thousands of webpages became blocked to the citizens as well as tourists. “(…) [C]overage of everything from natural disasters to corruption scandals that might embarrass the National Communist Party (…) ” was banned.
People who tried to look up information about the “(…)1989 Tiananmen Massacre, (…) and content perceived as sympathetic to ‘separatist’ elements in Tibet, Xinjang,and Taiwan (…)” were also doomed to fail. As a result, visitors to China were prevented from accessing websites such as Flickr or Wikipedia as well as an estimated of 18,000 individual blogs and websites (HWR:2008). TRANSITION NEEDED. Media censorship is not to be observed in China only but also in many Western countries, for example the United States.
Barack Obama’s country is known for its respect for civil liberties yet the government chooses not to reveal some of the inconvenient truths to the public. American citizens are used to hearing about the US troops fighting bravely overseas. However, the images of war are banned from the American mass media by the government who “(…) try to prevent Americans from seeing the toll that the war is taking in terms of graphic pictures, so that they don’t lose public support for the war” (Deborah Norville Tonight: 2004, as cited in Matheson – Allan: XXX).
Critic David Pelmer pointed out that “[t]he image of dead Americans, especially the dead American soldier, is the most powerful image of war for Americans”. (Matheson – Allan: XXX). Wisely used, censorship can be a boon to society. Banning the images of war results in protecting children from being exposed to violence and death. Other advantages of censorship are banning foul language from the mass media and control over pornography.
I. BODY a. Censorship – a hallmark of dictatorship 1. Bejing 2008 Olimpic Games/restricted access to the Internet a. Human rights infringed 2. Anna Politkowska’s murder in Russia – an attempt to mute the media 3. Banning the images of war by the US a. Inconvenient truths b. Preventing the society from learning about the atrocities of war b. Censorship – a boon to society 1. Banning the images of war by the US; it’s good sides a. Protecting children from being exposed to violence and death b. Protecting the emotions of deceased soldiers’ families c. Preventing the media from prying on others’ tragedy 2. Banning foul language from the media a. Better standard b. Preventing foul language from influencing minors c. Protecting others’ feelings 3. Control over pornography; restricting its broadcasting times and preventing minors from accessing it a. Web browser plugins that allow the parents to ban pages that contain content inapropriate for their child b. Securing healthy psychological and emotional development of the child