Censorship Phenomenon and Freedom of Expression over centuries

Censorship is ancient as the world itself. In fact, censorship had emerged with articulated language, when people first realized the power and, especially, the danger of words in certain situations.

Although in some circumstances, censorship (and especially self-censorship) is by itself a phenomenon, censorship was and remains a means of coercion, control, manipulation and restriction of freedom of expression – both the person and the masses.

Censorship has been, is and will stay a vital part of human society mechanism. Whether we like it or not.

Censorship always followed the evolution of freedom of expression, like a jealous twin sister and always inquisitive. It kept glued to the free word. Not weakened it at all!

In ancient China, censorship was raised to the rank of a legitimate tool, necessary for regulation of ethics, morality and political life of the population.

But the term censorship emerges from ancient Rome, when for the first time in Europe, an auditing office was established in the City of Seven Hills, at the beginning of the year 443 BC. BC However, censorship, as practice was already widespread among societies of ancient Greece. Certainly, the most famous case of censorship in ancient history was that in which Socrates himself fell victim.

The great philosopher and thinker was forced to drink poison in 399 BC. AD, after refusing to admit that his writings are offensive to the deities.

Censorship Phenomenon and Freedom of Expression over centuriesAs a phenomenon, always creates the opposition side, and advocates of free speech did not fail to make an appearance on the stage of history. The first of them was Euripides who lived between 480-406 BC. Euripides has defended the right of freedom, to speak without fear and to express views and opinions in public.

For freedom of expression in Europe, the spread of Christianity and Dark Ages were the two major obstacles. The royal courts and especially the Catholic Church were entities that had come at some point almost entirely with the notion of censorship.

The emergence of printing and thus the spread of printed writings in medieval Europe, somewhere in the middle of the fifteenth century, initially led to increased censorship led, of course, by omnipotent Catholic Church.

Numerous writings subjected to censorship were religious in nature, the first volume prohibited being those inspired by Protestants.

For Western civilization, censorship has taken new dimensions after the publication of Librorum Prohibitorum Treaty Index, a collection that indexed and prohibited all writings considered dangerous by the Vatican. Pope Paul IV ordered personally the first edition, which saw the light of printing in 1559.

Index enjoyed a tremendous success at the Vatican and was reprinted later in over 20 editions at the request of many popes. Believe it or not, but last updated edition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum was ordered by the Roman Catholic Church in 1948, the practice being abolished only in 1966.

Not only the world of books and writings always felt the cold breath of censorship: first appeared in France in 1464, the postal service was (and still is sometimes) suffered from violations of mail, and extra control. (Obviously, in rare situations, such as those related to national security or recent acts of terrorism, these practices are necessary.)

Censorship Phenomenon and Freedom of Expression over centuriesPostal services have been heavily targeted by searching eye of censorship, especially in times of war.

For example, at the beginning of last century, censorship was accepted and widespread in all European countries, including those with long traditions of democracy.

Even today, postal services stay in the focus of censorship, especially in countries where the import of literature, magazines, movies, music and more. Is prohibited or strictly controlled.

If we follow the censorship phenomenon throughout history, it seems that with the proximity of modern times, censorship begins to lose momentum and power. It’s just an impression.

The truth is that the end of the twentieth century gave rise to some of the most dominant and oppressive systems of censorship in the history of humanity. During the eighteenth century, the press of Europe is often controlled by state censorship.

Next century brought the emergence of independent media and censors offices had to surrender slowly to public pressures and the increasing demand of the masses to the open literature. Colonial empires such as Tsarist Russia and the United Kingdom had tight control over publications that appeared in their territories and colonies.

Although the censorship imposed by governments was apparently abandoned in most western countries, at the end of the nineteenth century, the masses of citizens concerned about the proliferation of materials and literature that treated sexuality, determined maintaining of censorship.

Even volumes of universal literature recommended for children today were banned because encourages sexuality.

Famous novels of adventure for the children, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was banned immediately after the appearance in the United States and Britain.

According to Arthur Schlesinger, author of “Censorship – 500 years of conflict,” the works of Mark Twain were still subject to censorship even in 1984.

Not just one book was a victim of censorship; the phenomenon often hit bookstores and libraries. You do not have to blame for this, only the ancients that burned famous Library of Alexandria, destroyed more than 400,000 manuscripts, hopelessly lost.

The entire collection of books from Oxford University was burned in 1683 by order of King explicitly.

Censorship Phenomenon and Freedom of Expression over centuries

However, censorship in the twentieth-century peak was reached in Europe under Nazi and Soviet regimes. And in fundamentalist states in which religious extremists held power, not at all remained behind the two regimes.

Even, they have surpassed them in many chapters. Censorship based on race continues to be one of the most frequent forms of prohibiting freedom of expression, along with the censorship on political considerations, sexual or religious.

The climax of this kind of censorship has been reached in the apartheid regime in South Africa, and southern conservative U.S. states. Excellent collection “Jacobsen’s Index of Objectionable Literature” is a highly documented and detailed source of strict censorship on racial grounds – prohibition of the writings of black authors.

Religious-based censorship makes even now, many human victims.

Nothing is more enlightening than the maximum “Those who live from pens, should die by the sword”, issued by the leadership of the armed group in Algeria in 1993.

Based on this logic of the absurd cruelty brought to its peak, in May of 1993, in December 1995, no fewer than 58 editors, reporters, and editorialists Algerians were killed immediately after the terrorist organization’s members said came into possession of correspondence of people working in media in this country.

Development of tech society, the emergence of the Internet, and social microclimate within the major international corporations has led to new forms of censorship.

If Internet censorship has become a phenomenon with we are already familiar (characterized by blocking sites, online forums, IP, etc.), censorship practiced and applied in large corporations is fascinating to watch and study.

Its effects lead to changes in complex character and personality of the millions of toiling ants,  under the scepter (read brands) of powerful multinationals. In short, corporate censorship consists in the punishment of freedom of expression for employees, spokespersons, and even business associates.

This subtly phenomenon of censorship is always associated with the threat of job loss, financial rights, loss of access to certain market segments.

The origin of capitalist social abuse was exposed and debated for the first time in 1969, when Nicholas Johnson and Richard Salant, two American media personalities have drawn attention to the phenomenon.

Censorship remains, therefore, an enormous, complex and controversial phenomenon, whose utility can not be denied by any society, but whose excesses must guard anyone. Be it a person, family or society.