– By Apoorva Mishra
Censorship the control of the information and ideas circulated within a society — has been a hallmark of dictatorships throughout history. In the 20th Century, censorship was achieved through the examination of books, plays, films, television and radio programs, news reports, and other forms of communication for the purpose of altering or suppressing ideas found to be objectionable or offensive. The rationales for censorship have varied, with some censors targeting material deemed to be indecent or obscene; heretical or blasphemous; or seditious or treasonous. Thus, ideas have been suppressed under the guise of protecting three basic social institutions: the family, the church, and the state.
Censorship is a global phenomenon. Time and again, there have emerged news of something getting banned somewhere in the world for reasons that seem unreasonable to many while a necessity to the rest. In India, specially, censorship exists in mass abundance. While each country and each culture censors the media in one way or the other, the amount of censorship or the cut-off level which defines what to show and what not, differs.
There are also different types of censorship. One of the most common criteria behind censorship is the age limits for viewing different media. Sometimes the censorship can be a blanket ban on a certain taboo topics and the definition of a taboo topic would be defined according to the governing authority in the country. So, while the levels of media censorship exist, people are still calling for absolute removal of all types of censorship. Then again, there are proponents who think that its use creates a balance in what ought to be said and written, which again, the opponents criticize on the basis of the threat it poses to the right of speech.
Advantages and Disadvantage of censorship
It is true that media is responsible for spreading information about current events all around the world, the need of the hour is balance of information given. Certain times violent speeches and derogatory comments given by people towards a particular race and religion. While the act in itself can be condemned, there is no need of repeated air-time given to the incident. This can only incite the masses against the said person or the organization he/she is associated with. Such media tactics are often used by political parties for selfish means while ignoring the greater good of the society. This can only bring unrest among the masses and disrupt the peace in the society. Some people may try to spread nonsensical propaganda through unsuspecting media. Censorship will prevent the public display of disrespect to any particular individual or community and promote political correctness.
However, Censoring of information may lead to a wrong image perceived by the public. It gives rise to and hides abuse of human rights. If the news coming from a war zone does not show the true nature of the damage inflicted, how can a person be aware of the real situation of the war? If to say that the real death toll and associated imagery should be censored, it will be equivalent to denying even the presence of war. Death is real and people affected in a war zone pay for it with their lives and we owe it to them to know their real stories. Don’t censor the media; rather tackle the issues leading to a situation that might need to be censored. Hiding the complete picture doesn’t erase its presence, merely gives a false perception.
Although the right to freedom of expression does not require an absolute ban on prior censorship, this should be a highly exceptional measure, taken only when a publication threatens grave harm, such as loss of life or serious harm to health, safety or the environment. An article deemed defamatory, blasphemous, obscene or overly critical of the government would rarely if ever meet this threshold. Moreover, a system whereby media content must be officially cleared before it can be released would be unacceptable; its harm to freedom of expression would plainly far outweigh the benefit to its goals. An absence of censorship might not be a perfect notion, as it can cause chaos. But it also doesn’t mean that the government uses it for its own personal gain by suppressing dissent. Ours is a democratic nation, yet has more censorship than most nations.
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