Media Laws & Regulations What is Censorship? Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication such as books, plays, films, television and radio programs, news reports which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, inconvenient, indecent, obscene or offensive to the general mass of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling entity. Censorship has been a hallmark of dictatorships throughout history; the question is whether censorship can be considered a form of democracy or not? Not all censorship is equal, nor does all arise from government or external force.
People self-censor all the time; such restraint can be part of the price of rational dialogue; Several U. S. corporations including Google, Yahoo! , Microsoft, and MySpace practice greater levels of self-censorship in some international versions of their online services. To understand censorship, and the impulse to censor, one must recognize that censorship and the ideology supporting it go back to ancient times, and that every society has had customs, taboos, or laws by which speech, dress, religious observance, and sexual expression were regulated.
Censorship can come in various types such as moral, political, corporate, artistic and religious censorship, each attempting to regulate or preserve certain rights in a society however there have been many contradicting views around the capability of censorship to actually protect certain people, beliefs, rights or ideas especially media censorship and whether it is considered a breach of freedom of expression. Television censorship:
From time to time there have been demands that some form of censorship be imposed on television channels for the exclusion of certain topics, social groups or language from the content of broadcast programming which might be undesirable and unsuitable, these voices were raised demonstrating that Television is now a part of the consciousness of millions of households throughout the world, particularly the young, who spend hours watching a ariety of programmes. It is impossible for parents to keep monitoring what they watch, and even if they do, how would they ensure that their constraints and guidelines are being followed? Such people are therefore dependent on the Censorship Board for a sensible compromise when it comes to admissible programming. It is argued that indecent content is almost irresistible to any child; Sex in entertainment is the most frequent target of censorship crusades.
In its 1978 decision in Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica, the Court ruled that the government could require radio and television stations to air “indecent” material only during those hours when children would be unlikely listeners or viewers. As for Pornography which is not a legal term at all, it is protected by the First Amendment unless it meets the definition of illegal obscenity.
Nevertheless, pro-censorship forces’ calls are not motivated solely by morality and taste, but also by the widespread belief that exposure to violence on television and movies causes people to act in destructive ways associating it with scientifically proven facts and statistics however anti-censorship forces argue that there are no evidence that fictional violence causes otherwise stable people to become violent and that correlation studies which seek to explain why some aggressive people have a history of watching a lot of violent TV suffer from the chicken-and-egg dilemma: does violent TV cause such people to behave aggressively, or do aggressive people simply prefer more violent entertainment? There is no definitive answer. But all scientists agree that statistical correlations between two phenomena do not mean that one causes the other. On the other hand, anti-censorship people, because of the cherished First Amendment rights, are extremely sensitive to any forms of censorship.
Relative to other countries, however, the United States enjoys remarkable freedom from official monitoring of program content. “Cutting of scenes” is practiced far more in developing countries than in western countries. As for European countries, exposure to nudity and sex is considered to be less objectionable than abusive language or violence. In the past, one of the arguments against censorship has been freedom of choice. Parents who object to offensive television programs can always switch the channel or choose another show. To counter conservative criticism and government censorship, producers and the networks have agreed to begin a ratings system which could be electronically monitored and blocked in the household.
Thus, parents could effectively censor programming which they found unsuitable for their children while still allowing the networks to air adult-oriented programming. Internet censorship: Censorship of information on the Internet has become a much publicized debate that currently has no resolution in sight; it started from testing grounds in China and the Middle East then slowly transferred to massive censorship of the web on a nationwide and global scale. There are programs that use various techniques to limit an Internet surfer’s access to certain web sites, the censorship may be done on the basis of a blacklist of banned sites, that list is usually not published as it may be produced manually or automatically, or by analyzing the text of each site at the time it is loaded into a browser.
In china, Censorship of the Internet, which started with three regulations issued by China’s central government, is openly and routinely used to silence criticism of government and the ruling Chinese Communist Party where the PRC’s (people’s republic of china) internet repression is considered more extensive and more advanced than in any other country in the world; The governmental authorities not only block website content but also monitor the Internet access of individuals. For instance, Out of the Top 100 Global Websites, 12 are currently blocked in mainland China. Amnesty International notes that China “has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world” accused of communicating with groups abroad, signing online petitions, and calling for reform and an end to corruption.
Ironically, In the United States of America, AOL(America on line) and other Internet Service Providers cooperated with the Bush administration in censoring and not-delivering certain emails also There were many cases of Google’s search engine failing to list and link certain information which carry anti-Bush political content. In December 2010, the White House Office of Management and Budget, the U. S. Library of Congress, the U. S. Air Force, and other government agencies began advising their personnel not to read classified documents available from Wiki Leaks and some blocked access to the website and other news organizations’ websites after the permanent injunction that was issued against the website’s domain name register, so as to block access to it, was lifted.
In Egypt, Internet censorship has long been practiced till recent times when they decided to cut off the internet communication leaving the country in an online blackout for five days as their own way of controlling or putting an end to the revolution yet even before, that used to be their policy when dealing with any opposing voices or undesirable opinions on the internet like blogs for example; Egypt’s decision to sentence 23-year old blogger Kareem Amer, A critic of the Egyptian government, to a four-year prison for insulting the former president Hosni Mubarak in February which sparked a fury among the civil society and attracted much unwanted attention from international media. Furthermore, the case of Wael Abbas, the blogger who has been harassed by the Egyptian government for posting video clips of torture at the hands of Egyptian police, closing his accounts on YouTube and Yahoo, accusing him of being a spammer, as well as his Face book’s account removal but it has since been restored.
Although, Egypt does not engage in technical Internet filtering, its laws discourage the publishing and reading of certain content. Whether internet censorship can be seen in a positive light or negative one is still disputable; it is argued that Internet censorship should be considered a necessity to protect the world’s children from sexual exploitation, some of whom do not understand the meaning of such graphic images which are found on some websites. Without Internet censorship, child pornography would be on the rise as it is increasing dramatically already; European countries are trying to use internet censorship to protect children against child pornographers through attempting to block access to websites that contain child pornography.
It is also claimed that Internet censorship is protecting the views and beliefs of others, which without it, would lead to racial hatred, gender discrimination and an ungoverned use of the Internet. The way Pro- internet censorship people see it is that every government should have its own border limits in the sense that preserves its sovereignty as well its public order. On the other side of the debate, it is argued that internet censorship is a direct contravention of the first amendment which includes the Freedom of Speech, The censorship and pornography along with other controversial topics all intertwined within the First Amendment as well.
However, every generation since 1790, in fact, has redefined and reinterpreted the First Amendment suggesting that freedom of speech is not absolute; laws exist regarding libel, obscenity, national security, access to government information, and regulation of electronic mass communications. Adding to that, internet censorship as used in some countries, leads to a totalitarian society where free thought and free speech are abandoned in place of a dictatorship. Internet censorship can lead others to be at a disadvantage because their opinions are being disregarded because of the implied meaning and also prevents a lack of development in the mind because of blocked images and texts. Censorship in Egypt:
If we ought to talk about freedom of press, freedom of expression and rules of censorship in Egypt then we have to bear in mind the transition period before and after the 25th of January revolution. Egypt was a country of contradictions; despite massive economic liberalization, the state still maintained a tight grip on political activity and freedom of expression. Every week the government censors read newspapers before it can be circulated. Out of necessity, the editorial staff had to self-censor articles to ensure that the publication makes it to the newsstands and to subscribers without disruption. Taboo topics such as religion, sexuality, political violence and the presidential family had to be handled with care.
In 2008, The Egyptian government was in the early stages of preparing a new law on audio-visual media with a proposed legislation seeking to silence opposition voices on televisions and computer screens. The draft bill, which was leaked to the independent Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm on July 9 required journalists and broadcasters to avoid damaging “the social peace”, “national unity”, “public order” and “public values” threatening Those who contravene such rules to face imprisonment for periods ranging from one month to three years, along with suspension or cancellation of broadcasting licenses, the confiscation of equipment, and fines ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,800 – $9,000). In addition to that, Outspoken journalists and bloggers have been detained, prosecuted, and harassed for tackling controversial stories.
In May 2007, CPJ cited Egypt as one of the “world’s worst backsliders on press freedom”. Later in the year, members and owners of the independent media like Adil Hamouda, Editor of the weekly Al-Fagr; Wael al-Ibrashi, of the weekly Sawt al-Umma; Abd al-Halim Qandil, former editor of the weekly Al-Karama; and Ibrahim Issa, Editor of the daily Al-Dustour, were all sentenced to a one-year prison term and a fine of LE 20,000 (2,500 euro) for allegedly “publishing false information likely to disturb public order”. According to a report published by CPJ, the case was initiated by a lawyer affiliated with the National Democratic Party who accused the editors of defaming governmental figures and of spreading false information.
In January 2007, Al-Jazeera journalist Howaida Taha Mitwalli, who had been working on a documentary film about torture in Egypt and was deliberately stripped of her videotapes and computer, was stopped at Cairo airport by security and she was sentenced to six months in prison on May 2 for “possessing and giving false pictures about the internal situation in Egypt that could undermine the dignity of the country. ” Censorship in Egypt surely violated freedom of expression and press with the only intent of protecting the government and the presidential family even when the revolution was sparked, the Egyptian government continued to censor and hide what was actually happening through ignoring the truth, blocking access to internet or disseminating falsified information via state-owned television and newspapers.
However, today after the revolution people are expecting much to change especially after the removal of the prominent figures of many government-owned newspapers and the ministry of information. Many press and television institutions have gone from being “voice of the government” to being “voice of the people”. Deputy Editor of Middle East News Agency (MENA), Egypt’s official news wire reported “Now we have complete freedom to write about anything – without any restriction”. Analysts say the structural changes that followed the collapse of authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt have loosened the state’s grip on the press and opened the door to a wider range of independent media.
Egypt, which already had a small but vibrant independent press, has dozens of new entrants. Among these is a television channel for the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood, and Radio Tahrir, a youth-led online radio station that aired in March as well as Tahrir channel yet the letter sent to newspaper editors on March 22, in which the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) warned that all coverage of topics involving Egypt’s military establishment must first be approved by the SCAF’s public relations and intelligence directorates, clearly implying that any criticism of the army won’t be tolerated , can be considered the single worst comedown for press freedom in Egypt since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February.
I personally believe that it is still unidentified whether or not Egypt will witness a reign of freedom of expression and just censorship soon because of the difficulty of dismantling and demolishing the culture of information control and authoritarian censorship after decades of dictatorial rule. However the hopes for that possibly happening strongly exist today and that it will never be like before. In my opinion, Censorship is a relative term that cannot work along with a concrete definition; it can be a double edged weapon meaning that it can be used as a tool for promoting freedom and democracy as well as a tool for dictatorship and suppression depending on how it is handled. I go for the sensible and aware censorship which knows what needs to be actually censored for preserving certain societal morals, ethics and values, for the common good.
I believe that this kind of censorship can be seen as correct in that sense, allowing freedom of speech, expression and press through freely expressing one’s opinion without being susceptible to defamation, or addressing off-point topics and unnecessary implications. On the other hand, using censorship to protect a certain entity or to only propagate the voice of the government and prohibit dissident voices or to decide assertedly for the whole society what should be revealed and what should be concealed, from the point of view of certain group of people or organizations to screen their own interests, or to even misinform the people is a clear abuse of freedom and democracy and the perfect representation of dictatorship and repression. References • http://www. menassat. com/? q=en/news-articles/2641-dark-year-press-freedom-egypt • http://www. ehow. om/info_8233325_advantages-disadvantages-censoring-internet. html • http://www. aclu. org/free-speech/what-censorship • http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Censorship • http://www. cpj. org/2011/04/substantial-setback-for-press-freedom-in-egypt. php • http://ipsnews. net/news. asp? idnews=55452 • http://www. hinduonnet. com/fline/fl2121/stories/20041022001508800. htm • http://ezinearticles. com/? Television-Censorship&id=2301107 • www. associatedcontent. com/… /the_value_of_television_censorship. html? • http://www. efa. org. au/Issues/Censor/cens3. html • http://www. google. com. eg/search? hl=ar&source=hp&q=internet+censorship&rlz=1R2SHCN_en&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq= • http://www. eligioustolerance. org/cyberpat. htm • http://epic. org/free_speech/censorship/ • http://www. rense. com/general69/intercens. htm • http://allafrica. com/stories/201101270560. html • http://www. linuxjournal. com/content/internet-censorship-us-or-just-law-enforcement • http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Wael_Abbas • http://socialtimes. com/censorship-lessons-egypt-tap_b37853 • http://courses. cs. vt. edu/cs3604/lib/Censorship/notes. html • http://www. thegreatdebate. org. uk/GDIntFreeProc. html • http://www. dooyoo. co. uk/discussion/internet-censorship/1077876/ • http://www. schneier. com/blog/archives/2008/04/internet_censor. html