AskDefine | Define censors

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Plural of censor


  1. third-person singular of censor

Extensive Definition

Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful or sensitive, as determined by a censor. The rationale for censorship is different for various types of data censored. Censorship is the act or practice of removing material from things we encounter every day on the grounds that it is obscene, vulgar, and/or highly objectionable. Whether it is on TV, in music, books, or on the Internet, censorship is an inescapable part of human society. Censorship can be broken into different categories:
  • Moral censorship is the means by which any material that contains what the censor deems to be of questionable morality is removed. The censoring body disapproves of what it deems to be the values behind the material and limits access to it. Pornography, for example, is often censored under this rationale. In another example, graphic violence resulted in the censorship of the "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" movie entitled "Scarface" originally completed in 1932.
  • 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. Additionally, military censorship may involve a restriction on information or media coverage that can be released to the public. This is also considered acceptable by even democratic governments as necessary for the preservation of national security.
  • Political censorship occurs when governments hold back secret information from their citizens. The logic is to prevent the free expression needed to rebel. Democracies do not officially approve of political censorship but often endorse it privately. Any dissent against the government is thought to be a “weakness” for the enemy to exploit. Campaign tactics are also often kept secret: see the Watergate scandal.
  • 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. This type of censorship is common in several Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran as well in many U.S. Christian communities, especially Evangelicals.
  • 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. Privately owned corporations in the business of reporting the news also sometimes refuse to distribute information due to the potential loss of advertiser revenue or shareholder value which adverse publicity may bring. See media bias.

Censorship of state secrets and prevention of attention

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 of educational sources

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 Nanking Massacre, the Holocaust (or Holocaust denial), and the Winter Soldier Investigation of the Vietnam War. The representation of every society's flaws or misconduct is typically downplayed in favor of a more nationalist, favorable or patriotic view.
Religious groups have at times attempted to block the teaching of evolution in publicly-funded schools as it contradicts their religious beliefs, or have argued that they are being censored if not allowed to teach creationism as science in those schools, though their arguments have been rejected by United States courts in cases such as Edwards v. Aguilard and Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. The teaching of sexual education in school and the inclusion of information about sexual health and contraceptive practices in school textbooks is another area where suppression of information occurs. Political correctness sometimes prohibits the open discussion of divergent views. 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 contained approximately 75 separate edits, omissions, and changes from the original Bradbury manuscript.

Suppression/falsification of scientific research

For more information, see the article on scientific misconduct.
Scientific studies may be suppressed or falsified because they undermine sponsors' commercial, political or other interests or because they fail to support researchers' ideological goals. Examples include, failing to publish a study which shows that a new drug is harmful, or truthfully publishing the benefits of a treatment while failing to describe harmful side-effects. Scientific research may also be suppressed or altered to support a political agenda. In the United States some government scientists, including NASA climatologist Drew Shindell, have reported governmental pressure to alter their statements regarding climate change.

Censorship in music and popular culture

American musicians such as Frank Zappa have repeatedly protested against censorship in music and pushed for more freedom of expression. In 1986, Zappa appeared on CNN's Crossfire to protest censorship of lyrics in rock music, denying that harm will be done or unrest caused if controversial information, lyrics, or other messages are promulgated.
In countries like Sudan, Afghanistan and China, violations of musician’s rights to freedom of expression are commonplace. In the USA and Algeria, lobbying groups have succeeded in keeping popular music off the concert stage, and out of the media and retail. In ex-Yugoslavia musicians are often pawns in political dramas, and the possibility of free expression has been adversely affected.
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.
A related example is dance censorship, which can be found across the globe, both today and historically. Dancing's associations with youth, sexuality, and expression have often made it a target for religious reformers and government control.

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. 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. 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.

Censorship of maps

Google Earth censors places that may be of special security concern. The following is a selection of such concerns:
  • The former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam had expressed concern over the availability of high-resolution pictures of sensitive locations in India.
  • Indian Space Research Organization says that Google Earth poses a security threat to India and seeks dialogue with Google officials.
  • The South Korean government has expressed concern that the software offers images of the presidential palace and various military installations that could possibly be used by North Korea.
  • Operators of the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney, Australia asked Google to censor high resolution pictures of the facility. However, they later withdrew the request.
  • The government of Israel also expressed concern over the availability of high-resolution pictures of sensitive locations in its territory, and applied pressure to have Israeli territory (and the Occupied Territories held by Israeli forces) appear in less clear detail.
  • The Vice President of the United State's residence (Naval Observatory) in Washington, DC has been pixelated.
  • In Morocco, the partially government owned Maroc telecom internet access provider banned all its subscribers for over two years for using Google Earth, but early in 2008 the censorship was removed.

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.

Censorship implementation

Censorship is regarded among a majority of academics in the Western world as a typical feature of dictatorships and other authoritarian political systems. Democratic nations are represented, especially among Western government, academic and media commentators, as having somewhat less institutionalized censorship, and as instead promoting the importance of freedom of speech. 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 Glavlits control. All press agencies and radio and television stations had Glavlit representatives on their editorial staffs.
Some thinkers understand censorship to include other attempts to suppress points of view or the exploitation of negative propaganda, media manipulation, spin, disinformation or "free speech zones." These methods tend to work by disseminating preferred information, by relegating open discourse to marginal forums, and by preventing other ideas from obtaining a receptive audience.
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, and as of July 2006, is almost totally invisible throughout the internet, both in English and French, and does not appear even on Foucault-specialized websites.

Commercial censorship

Suppression of access to the means of dissemination of ideas can function as a form of censorship. Such suppression has been alleged to arise from the policies of governmental bodies, such as the FDA and FCC in the United States of America, the CRTC in Canada, newspapers that refuse to run commentary the publisher disagrees with, lecture halls that refuse to rent themselves out to a particular speaker, and individuals who refuse to finance such a lecture. The omission of selected voices in the content of stories also serves to limit the spread of ideas, and is often called censorship. Such omission can result, for example, from persistent failure or refusal by media organizations to contact criminal defendants (relying solely on official sources for explanations of crime). Censorship has been alleged to occur in such media policies as blurring the boundaries between hard news and news commentary, and in the appointment of allegedly biased commentators, such as a former government attorney, to serve as anchors of programs labeled as hard news but comprising primarily commentary.
The focusing of news stories to exclude questions that might be of interest to some audience segments, such as the avoidance of reporting cumulative casualty rates among citizens of a nation that is the target or site of a foreign war, or in the prevention, treatment, and curing of disease, is often described as a form of censorship. Favorable representation in news or information services of preferred products or services, such as reporting on leisure travel and comparative values of various machines instead of on leisure activities such as arts, crafts or gardening has been described by some as a means of censoring ideas about the latter in favor of the former.
Self-censorship: Imposed on the media in a free market by market/cultural forces rather than a censoring authority. This occurs when it is more profitable for the media to give a biased view.

Censorship by country

See the navigation box at the beginning of this article.


Brazil is widely known for repeatedly trying to censor the Internet. In January 2007, a Brazilian Supreme Court judge issued an order to Brasil Telecom and Telefonica preventing public access to an intimate video of model Daniela Cicarelli and her boyfriend Renato Malzonithe on the YouTube site. Cicarelli and Malzoni had sued YouTube the previous year and got an injunction for the removal of the video, but it was still appearing. YouTube staff were eventually able to prevent the video from appearing on their site.


The Law on Social Responsibility of Radio and Television (Ley de Responsabilidad de Radio y Television in Spanish) has stimulated debates on freedom of expression and journalism in the country. It was enforced in 2003 by the government regulating body, CONATEL (National Commission of Radio and Television) and involves a wide range of television and radio censorship on violent and sexual content. However, the law contains other articles that have been subject to deep political controversy. Government opposition claims that the Venezuelan government is attempting to enlarge its role in the control of broadcasts content through the bill, and accuse it of being curbing international freedom of expression standards, generating a chilling effect on media and self-censorship. According to the law, television or radio stations could be penalized for showing news coverage of internal conflicts and wars before 20.00hrs, “making it necessary for them to present a sanitized version of the news during the day”. Furthermore, "insult laws" as Human Rights Watch labels articles 115, 121 and 125 of the bill could result in open political censorship to freedom of speech. Blaming President Chavez or the Venezuelan government for the current bitter divisions in Venezuelan society, the bad economy, a sudden poverty growth and deaths in opposition demonstrations could result in an infraction of the law and therefore in strong penalizations (if the offense is ‘interpreted’ or considered disrespectful towards legitimate institutions and authorities).
In May 2007 controversies on press freedom were further exacerbated since RCTV (Radio Caracas Television) came out of air. An article by Reporters Without Borders stated that "Reporters Without Borders condemns the decision of the Venezuela Supreme Court to rule an appeal by Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) against the loss of its license as “inadmissible”. The appeal, lodged on 9 February 2007, was rejected on 18 May, putting a stop to any further debate. President Hugo Chávez said on 28 December 2006 that he would oppose renewal of the group’s broadcast license, accusing the channel of having supported the 11 April 2002 coup attempt in which he was briefly overthrown. According to the government the license expired on 27 May 2007, a date contested by RCTV, which insists its license is valid until 2022. Without waiting for the 27 May or the Supreme Court’s decision, Hugo Chávez on 11 May awarded RCTV’s canal 2 frequency by decree to a new public service channel, Televisora Venezolana Social (TEVES)". This government action has fueled student demonstrations and contentious forms of political manifestations ever since.

Citations and notes

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)
censors in Bosnian: Cenzura
censors in Bulgarian: Цензура
censors in Catalan: Censura
censors in Czech: Cenzura
censors in Danish: Censur
censors in German: Zensur (Informationskontrolle)
censors in Modern Greek (1453-): Λογοκρισία
censors in Spanish: Censura
censors in Esperanto: Cenzuro
censors in Persian: سانسور
censors in French: Censure
censors in Galician: Censura
censors in Korean: 검열
censors in Croatian: Cenzura
censors in Ido: Censuro
censors in Italian: Censura
censors in Hebrew: צנזורה
censors in Latvian: Cenzūra
censors in Lithuanian: Cenzūra
censors in Malay (macrolanguage): Penapisan
censors in Dutch: Censuur (informatie)
censors in Japanese: 検閲
censors in Norwegian: Sensur (informasjon)
censors in Norwegian Nynorsk: Sensur
censors in Polish: Cenzura
censors in Portuguese: Censura
censors in Romanian: Cenzură
censors in Russian: Цензура
censors in Simple English: Censorship
censors in Slovak: Cenzúra
censors in Serbian: Цензура
censors in Serbo-Croatian: Cenzura
censors in Finnish: Sensuuri
censors in Swedish: Censur
censors in Turkish: Sansür
censors in Ukrainian: Цензура
censors in Yiddish: צענזור
censors in Chinese: 审查制度
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