Probe of the journals, periodicals, publications, books, movies, television programs, reports,records, news and other media of communication, considered objectionable and offensive for the purpose of alteration and suppression comes under the reference of media censorship.”The cyclical suppression, banning, expurgation, or editing by an individual, institution, group or government that enforces or influences its decision against members of the public of any written or pictorial materials which that individual, institution, group or government deems obscene and ‘utterly without redeeming social value’ as determined by ‘contemporary community standards.'” — Chuck Stone.
It’s a conscious policy that is sanctioned without the concurrence and assent of major segment of society. Taboo infiltrates intimately and instinctively into the scheme and provision of feelings of the beings who are witnessed to regale it. It proves effective mostly in the struggle of self-control, enforced by the preliminary action by the group upon the folks who usually are not captivated by it, generally such action instinctive and indiscreet. Or we can say that taboo is more likely to become a censorship when it is applied to be practised by the outside members not gratified with that belief.
However censorship is practised by various authoritative pressure groups and regulatory government agencies for many rational subjective reasons; the ideas presented may be critical or erroneous by the accepted standards of the jurisdictions and authorities or can astray audience not proficient enough to see the mendacity or can lead to antisocial behaviour. Although media censorship seems to question freedom and rights of individuals to acknowledge facts happening around, however, it should be practised effectively by the government on certain portions because it helps in pertaining and safeguarding the issues of military intelligence and security of the state on national and international grounds and allows companies to resort their information for business and strategic operations. Moreover it prohibits the harmful content that is obscene and violent, use of drugs and other questionable concerns and controversies by respecting religious beliefs and the interests of children and family.
Restriction of information becomes legitimate in certain cases such as interests of the national security where it is rigorously decisive and when there is visible existence of safeguards to cultivate open and accessible justice and exemption of expressions’ flexibility. National security determines censorship in many countries around the globe. For example the WikiLeaks caused quite a mayhem in Turkey and strengthened those calling for greater media censorship. Huffington post reported, “The flow of online information won’t die because of government attempts at censorship — ordinary people around the world, including many in Turkey, are too good at circumventing blocks. Instead, it’s these senseless violations of privacy that make people mistrust the free flow of information and instead support whatever governments say protects them.
This leak, which has zero public interest, will regrettably be a talking point for people who support censorship.”(Huffington Post). Media censorship is also necessary in areas where military operations are going on or during wartime. Tom Blankley says that during wartime, there is a natural tension between civil liberties and national security. Security must take precedence. He further goes on to quote instances in the World War 2 and the high number of censorships during that period compared to today in the American media.
He says, “At the beginning of World War II, around twenty-six news stories were censored in the American press every day; by the end of 1942, the Post Office had completely outlawed seventy newspapers.” (Washington Post). Moreover, media is not allowed to freely report in Pakistani tribal agencies where a military operation is going on. This is to ensure that military positions, tactics and strategy is not compromised. Military operations involve secretive information that cannot be compromised by media reporting. Defense and security interests regarding a nation are one of the greatest reasons why media censorship extensively happens.
This is adopted by military too in safeguarding military intelligence. Since ancient times governments haveregulatory controls to exercise their powers to component on media outlets so as to crack around and amalgamate within a state in the interest of their advantages or minimally scrutinizing a way out to minimize public condemnation in the regard of its erroneous working. (Ambekar). History has been abounding with instances of persons exercising their power to mark mass media censorship. An example was General Pervez Musharraf’s media blackout during the 2007 emergency. This was according to the General in the interest of national security as to avoid public disorder and mayhem. Chaos was prevented according to Musharraf due to this media censorship.
Ambekar states another instance where censorship is used. This type of censorship is called corporate censorship. It can be defined as the regulation of free words and speeches by speakers, employees, members and business allies by menace of monetary and financial loss, employment catastrophes or loss of accession to an admitted marketplace (Jay). He states that companies also sometimes fall back to censorship of media where their information and knowledge relating to the business is organized and circumscribed.
It is mainly adopted by the companies which have to face hostile P.R. as there are glitches seen in their business actions. An example of corporate censorship is the “head of the National Association of Broadcasters Code Authority resigning “in disgust over the hypocrisy exhibited by the NAB’s stand on cigarette advertisements”” (Johnson). Corporate censorship is usually written down in employee’s contract in order to create a deterrence for them from leaking company secrets. According to some people corporate censorship is even more powerful than government censorship in America in particular.
Other instances where media censorship is necessary is child pornography, excluding or regulating material and content that is explicit and sexual, obscene information and content which shows viciousness. Accountability and constraint to batten and bar the material is to make sure that the welfareand rights of the families are protected and accordingly, the religious dogmas are treasured. Ambekar says “Pornography censorship is widely seen around the world and it may seem correct that such a censorship is enforced particularly with the ease with which such material can be obtained and accessed through the internet. Other morally questionable material is also often subject to censorship.” Media Censorship is necessary in some instances and useless in other.
However, media censorship in cases such as blasphemous or explicit content is sometimes necessary. Blasphemous content has been known to strike emotions in Pakistan. People have been known to murder others, ransack neighborhoods and set ablaze private property because of blasphemous content being published. Recently, three bloggers who published such blasphemous content on social media were picked up by intelligence agencies and forced to shut their pages that contained blasphemous content. Going back more than a decade ago, the Jyllands-Posten cartoon controversy cause protests and violence in Pakistan. Also Pakistan Telecommunication Authority rightfully blocked Youtube after religious sentiments in the country were ignited due to the publishing of blasphemous content on Youtube that was not blocked by Youtube despite of the repeated requests by the Pakistani government.
During the Musharraf 2007 emergency in Pakistan, the media blackout and censorship were uncalled for and unnecessary. The media emerged as an important and critical factor in the course leading to the plunge of General Musharraf and the era of his regime. By the administration of widespread coverage and analysis of that time i.e 2007 (first from Pakistan and after getting censored from Pakistan, abroad). Lawyer’s Movement tussle to draw the deposed CJ restored, media in this regard contributed an important part in the mobilisation of the masses. This dissent drive involved millions of natives of Pakistan on the streets in the quest of an autonomous judiciary and for explicit of egalitarian and democratic decrees which ported Musharraf with scant and meagre support from army and civilian societies. The most powerful argument against this kind of censorship lies in the freedom of speech argument.
Freedom of speech is one of the constitutional right around most parts of the free world and censoring media Akins to stepping on the freedom of speech. However, media censorship is necessary in some circumstances. For example to restrict obscene and violent content like child pornography, use of drugs, corporate secrets that might be harmful to strategic and business dealings of a company & restricting blasphemous and other content that might arouse religious sentiments. Although certain individuals in order to retain their grip over authoritative regimes fall back to media censorship that is unnecessary as we saw in the General Musharraf case, however as also discussed above certain circumstances deem media censorship necessary. Therefore, media censorship should be allowed and done in certain instances by the Government in the interests of beliefs and values of people.
-“Wikileaks Put Women In Turkey In Danger, For No Reason (UPDATE)”. The Huffington Post. N.p., 2017. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.
-http://www.washingtontimes.com, The. “BLANKLEY: Yes, We Need Censorship”. The Washington Times. N.p., 2017. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.
-Ambekar, Ashwini. “Reasons For Media Censorship”. InfoJug.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.
-“Defining Censorship”. Media.okstate.edu. N.p., 2017. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.
-Timothy Jay (2000). Why We Curse: A Neuro-psycho-social Theory of Speech. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 208–209
-Nicholas Johnson (1969-07-05). “The Silent Screen”. TV Guide. – reprinted and augmented in Nicholas Johnson (1970). How to Talk Back to Your Television Set. New York: Bantam Books
Featured Image Credits: UA System