Censorship, Freedom of Speech, and Human Rights


Censorship and freedom of speech go hand in hand. Censorship defines the process that the information and ideas circulating within a society are withheld for disclosure or publication. The basic idea is to suppress ideas or information that is found to be offensive or objectionable. Different forms of communication are examined to identify the information contained in them and abolish those parts that are offensive or objectionable. Forms of communication studied include; books, films, plays, radio programs, news reports, television, music, and all other forms of communication. Censorship is an important tool for protecting certain social institutions such as the family, the state, and the church. Different sources by different authors view the issue of censorship in different dimensions especially on censorship and the freedom of speech. Some argue that censorship is a violation of the freedom of speech whereas others argue that it is not a violation to a certain extent. On one side, freedom of speech can only be viewed to be positive if it has positive results for society in general. If the freedom of speech leads to immoral and offensive issues, suppression of the same cannot be seen as a violation. On the other hand, censorship is viewed as a violation of freedom of speech in that freedom of speech is seen as a universal human right (Straubhaar & LaRose 86). Some authors argue that it reduces the creativity of individuals by oppressing their minds and social opinions at any given time. This paper will seek to discuss the different arguments of different authors of different sources on the issue of censorship and violation of human rights.

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Censorship Not a Violation of Freedom of Speech

The government of the United States made some amendments to the constitution to ensure that individuals and members of the press the freedom of speech (Day 43). However, the information that is available to the public plays a major role in matters such as the defense of the country, the moralities of young children, and others (Erixon & Lee-Makiyama 6). The information and ideas that are presented to the public will only be considered positive if it has positive effects to that public or the interests of the state. Otherwise, if the information has negative effects, it can be censored so that the public experiences positive development. Censoring such information cannot be seen as a violation of freedom of speech in that its effects are more harmful than useful. Katie (36) argues that it is at times quite difficult for everybody in a region to agree on the values of an idea. In the United States, censorship is opposed by forty percent while some of the rest support it and others are not interested in the debate. The government, therefore, can decide on the information that is harmful to the public and suppress its release or publication for the safety of the state and its interests. In general, individuals are free to express themselves but not to incite against the state or to promote immorality.

United States troops abroad need high protection and censorship offers a means in which they can be protected (Katie 6). In his war against terrorism, President George W. Bush had to ensure that all stories about the war in Iraq had been censored. This protected the leakage of any information to the terrorists in Iraq who could attack the troops. During wartime, providing enemies with some information like the location of soldiers would be very harmful. Freedom of speech does not mean the release of information that could have negative effects on a state. Comparing the devastating effects of terrorism, censorship cannot be considered a violation of freedom of speech if it reduces the attacks. President George W. Bush in 1991 abolished the taking of pictures of flag-draped coffins by the media when bodies of the deceased were brought home. This helped in a major way in protecting the public interest. Exposing pictures of dead soldiers to the general public is quite unfair and inhuman. The gruesome images of war are very negative to the public and censoring the publication of such information is important in protecting it.

The parents with the help of the government have a responsibility to control what young children in the society receive (Strossen 82). As a matter of fact, there is some information that is inappropriate for young children. If the different forms of communication expose such inappropriate information to young people, it is likely to affect their morality at a very early age. Some books, the TV, computers, and other forms of communication can be used to communicate such information to young children. The end result is negative on part of the children, the state, and the church. To protect the morality of such children, censorship would help the access of such information by these young children. Protecting such children by censoring information that could be destructive cannot be termed as a violation of the freedom of speech. Censorship is therefore seen as a means of bringing up children in the right way.

Some information that is released by the different forms of communication is dangerous to the family, the church, and the state. The media may format some information in such a way that it leads to wrong perceptions by the receivers. This may cause unrest such as demonstrations or panic. If there is a feeling that the release or publication of some information will lead to tensions the information may be censored to prevent the tensions.

Censorship as a Violation of Freedom of Speech

Different individuals in the United States have different opinions about censorship. About forty percent of the individuals in the United States are against censorship. The first argument is that democracy will not be there if freedom of speech is limited. Censorship nullifies democracy in that the authorities have the power to dictate what will take place. A country that claims to be democratic should allow its citizens to express themselves in whichever way they wish. The first amendment of the constitution gives individuals the right to expression. There is no way that a person can be set free to express himself or herself and then be limited on what he or she says. Denying the different forms of communication the right to publish or release information that is true can be seen as a violation of human rights.

Censorship in some cases denies individuals the right to know the actual information. This is because all information that is deemed sensitive is removed from an article before it is received. All individuals are entitled to know the true information and there is no one who is entitled to prevent them from knowing the truth. The policies that government uses in the name of preventing the interests of the state block them from knowing the severity of war. Burning the media from taking pictures of caskets affects the views of Americans about war. The understanding is however different from the situation on ground. Mere words may not communicate as effectively as a combination of pictures and words could do it. The individuals in most cases ignore or assume that all is alright whereas the situation is quite hard. Censoring individuals from using pictures in their work jeopardizes their credibility as sources of news. Whether the media uses pictures or not the individuals who have lost their lives in the battle have lost them and there is nothing we can change. Censorship can therefore be seen as a means of violating the freedom of speech for journalists where the public gets the wrong image of the picture on ground.

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When the government dictates what individuals sing and what writers write in their work, it limits their chances of developing their talents (Danz 6). One of the major reasons for this is the fact that it constraints their creative thinking. This means that those who could have specialized in some areas get their talents and dreams shuttered. In some cases, such individuals just use naughty words to express themselves. Again, the internet has brought a new means by which young children access all forms of information they need. The plan by the government to use technology to prevent access of some information might not work as the government intends (Lane 7). Some articles and music by some artists and musicians also have some parts removed for them to be played by the media. This is a violation of freedom of speech.

The policies that are used in censorship might lead to government exploitation (Curry & Brian 1254). The government may also in the name of protecting the public change the constitution (Taylor 5). A time has come when even the public listens to what the government dictates and not what they wish. When the government dictates the music to be produced, it means that listeners can only listen to what it has dictated. This is also likely to bring the artists down because their fans do not get what they expected from them. The expected results are not achieved and this can only be seen as a violation of freedom of speech.


The information and ideas circulating within a society has many effects on the life of individuals living in that community. United states have adopted a way in which to censor certain information that could be offensive and objectionable. Censorship has both negative and positive effects on freedom of speech. Some sources of information available argue that censorship is not a violation of freedom of speech especially if it prevents negative effects of information and ideas that could have been release to the public. Other authors argue that censorship is a violation of freedom of speech in that freedom of speech is seen as a universal human right. Censorship helps maintain the defense of the country and the morality of young people. It also helps to protect troops abroad. Information is censored so as to protect inappropriate from being accessed by young children. In all the above cases, censoring information leads to positive development and it cannot therefore be termed as a violation of freedom of speech. Censorship nullifies democracy in that the authorities have the power to dictate what will take place. Censorship hides the true information from individuals. It also dictates what is to be said and produced. The policies that the government uses might lead to exploitation. This is a violation of the freedom of speech.

Works Cited

Curry, Jansen. S. & Brian, Martin. Exposing and Opposing Censorship: Backfire Dynamics in Freedom-of-Speech Struggles. Web.

Danz, John. Censorship in America:2010. Web.

Day, Nancy. Censorship or Freedom of Expression? Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company. 2009. Web.

Erixon, Fredrik & Lee-Makiyama, Hosuk. Chinese Censorship Equals Protectionism. 2010. Web.

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Lane, David. Internet Censorship in the US? Or Just Law Enforcement? Linux Journal. 2009. Web.

Katie, O’Connor. Censorship Debate-Right or Wrong. 2009. Web.

Straubhaar, Joseph. D. & LaRose, Robert. Media Now: Understanding Culture, Media, and Technology. Thomson: Holly, J. Wallen. 2009. Web.

Strossen, Nadine. Hate Speech and Pornography: Do we have to choose between Freedom of Speech and Equality. Boston: Routledge.2007. Web.

Taylor, Stuart. Troubling Signals on Free Speech. 2009.Web.

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