Censorship | Article about censorship by The Free Dictionary

the control exercised by official authorities, whether secular or ecclesiastical, over the contents, publication, and circulation of printed matter, over the performance of plays and other stage works, and over fine arts and photographic exhibits, motion pictures, radio and television broadcasts, and sometimes even private correspondence for the purpose of preventing or limiting the dissemination of ideas and information deemed by such authorities to be undesirable or harmful.

Censorship may be imposed either before or after release of a given work. In the case of prior censorship, permission must be obtained before a book can be published, for example, or a play produced, whereas ex post facto censorship is exercised through the review of works that have already been published or otherwise released and through the restriction or prohibition of any work that violates the rules of censorship.

During the Middle Ages, censorship was exercised by the church authorities over theological and liturgical manuscripts in order to prevent heresies or other deviations from official church standards. The church issued book-banning decrees as well. In the 14th century, under Pope Urban VI, it was decreed that only those books could be used that were faithful copies of the originals and whose contents were not contrary to church dogma. In the early 15th century, Pope Martin V instituted a college of bishops that had control over the contents of books. Somewhat later, censorship functions were assumed by the secular state with respect to book copyists and the contents of books produced by them; such functions were usually exercised by the universities.

The invention of book printing stimulated the development of censorship. In 1471 it was decreed that books on religious subjects could be printed only with prior permission of the church authorities. In the mid-16th century the Catholic Church compiled a list of forbidden books; subsequently the list was repeatedly expanded. Beginning in the 16th century, censorship gradually passed into the hands of the secular authorities, becoming firmly established in all the Western European countries that had printing houses.

Under absolutist forms of government, censorship was one of the chief weapons used by the state and the church against ideologies that were hostile to the feudal system. Censorship bodies grew in number and were given greater responsibility over violations of the rules of censorship.

The French Revolution and the bourgeois revolutions elsewhere proclaimed freedom of expression and the abolition of censorship. The bourgeoisie itself, however, having gained political power, made extensive use of censorship for its own class purposes, thereby restricting the exercise of democratic freedoms by the proletariat and the workers progressive organizations. For a long time, workers publications in many countries were prohibited altogether.

Every bourgeois state today exercises ex post facto, or punitive, censorshipthat is, criminal proceedings are instituted in the case of publication of defamatory and slanderous information; punitive measures include fines, confiscation of printed issues, and bans or attachments against publication. The laws with respect to what may be published are so vague in formulation that they can be interpreted in a variety of ways. In the USA, for example, it is prohibited to abuse freedom of speech and freedom of the press; in Great Britain the government can prohibit the publication of certain news items on the grounds of national interest. According to Anglo-Saxon law, such censorship is not deemed contrary to freedom of speech and of the press.

The bourgeois states have no formal system of prior censorship; in many countries, howeverincluding the USA, France, and Great Britaina functioning system of governmental measures enables a stringent censorship to be effected in practice. In addition, opportunities to disseminate progressive publications are limited by the fact that new publishing organizations must be licensed and registered by the competent state agencies and must have large sums of money at their disposal in order to be able to operate. The very fact that the mass media, including newspapers and magazines, are owned by large monopolies determines the selection of material to be published and the weeding out of information that is unfavorable to the ruling class.

The censorship of motion pictures and school textbooks, which is systematically practiced in all the bourgeois states, is particularly stringent in the USA. In most of the bourgeois countries, the observance of censorship prohibitions is under the jurisdiction of the ministry or department of justice, the public prosecutors office, or the ministry of internal affairs.

REFERENCEIdeologicheskaia deiatelnost sovremennogo imperialisticheskogo gosudarstva. Moscow, 1972.In Russia. The earliest form of censorship in Russia, dating back to the 16th century, was religious censorship; its functions were assumed by the Synod in 1721. A decree of 1783, which allowed private individuals to establish printing houses, also introduced prior censorship: manuscripts could be printed only after being reviewed by the uprava blagochiniia (board of police). The outbreak of the French Revolution led to stricter censorship policies. In 1790, A. N. Radishchevs book A Journey From St. Petersburg to Moscow was destroyed; in 1792, N. I. Novikovs publishing house was closed down. A decree of 1796 instituted controls on the publication and importing of books into Russia and established censorship commissions in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other cities.Censorship in the 19th century was regulated by special statutes. The first censorship statute, adopted in 1804, entrusted the supervision of publishing to the central board for school administration of the Ministry of Public Education. The statute prohibited the publication of works that were inimical to the Orthodox religion and to the autocratic order. A second statute, adopted in 1826 and known by its contemporaries as the iron statute, introduced a great number of petty restrictions that gave censors the right to ban any work at all. Under the statute of 1828, which was formally less restrictive, no new periodical could be published without permission of the emperor Nicholas I. The supervision of publishing was assumed by the central board for censorship under the Ministry of Public Education; local censorship commissions were subordinate to the central board. In practice the functions of censorship were exercised by the Third Section, to which censors had to report instances of freethinking works and their authors names. The works of A. S. Pushkin, M. Iu. Lermontov, and N. V. Gogol were subjected to severe censorship; N. A. Polevois journal Moskovskii telegraf was closed down in 1834, and N. I. Nadezhdins Teleskop in 1836.The period from 1848 to 1855 went down in the history of Russian literature as the age of terror in censorship. Frightened by the Revolution of 184849 in Western Europe, the tsarist regime stiffened its controls over periodicals and literary works, which it regarded as the chief vehicles of revolutionary ideas. A secret committee was established by order of Nicholas I on Apr. 2, 1848, to examine all publications that were already in print; anything that was deemed contrary to the governments views was reported to the tsar. (D. P. Buturlin headed the committee until 1849; N. N. Annenkov, until 1853; and M. A. Korf, until 1856.) Thus punitive censorship was added to the prior censorship system that was already in effect. On the basis of reports by the Buturlin Committee, M. E. Saltykov was deported to Viatka in 1848,1. S. Turgenev was arrested and exiled to Spasskoe-Lutovi-novo in 1852, and the Slavophiles were subjected to persecutions.The censorship terror reached its apogee after the trial of the Petrashevskii Circle. The Pocket Dictionary of Foreign Words, published by members of the circle, was destroyed. Special circulars were issued prohibiting the publication of research works on such subjects as folklore or the history of popular movements; the number of books, journals, and newspapers published in Russia was drastically reduced.After Russias defeat in the Crimean War of 185356 and the death of Nicholas I, the government was led to change its policy by the general quickening of social life, the extensive circulation of uncensored literature in manuscript form, and the establishment abroad of the Free Russian Printing House. The abolition of the Buturlin Committee on Dec. 6, 1855, marked the beginning of censorship reform. A set of temporary regulations on censorship and publishing, issued on Apr. 6, 1865, assigned censorship functions to a central administrative board for publishing; the board was under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which also had jurisdiction over book trade matters, libraries, and printing houses. Prior censorship was no longer required for original works of a length of more than ten printers sheets, translated works of more than 20 printers sheets, periodicals published in the capital cities by permission of the minister of internal affairs, and works published by the academies and universities. Judicial liability was established for censorship violations; moreover, the confiscation of published material was to be effected by court order. The minister of internal affairs could issue warnings to journals and newspapers for harmful tendencies. After the third such warning the Senate could order the publication to be suspended for six months or be banned.The censorship reform of 1865 was one of the least consistent of the bourgeois reforms of the 1860s and 1870s. Even so, it was soon reduced to naught by various amendments. In 1868 the minister of internal affairs was given the right to prohibit the retail sale of periodicals. In 1872 the confiscation of published material was made subject to administrative order by the Committee of Ministers. In 1882 the right to prohibit the publication of periodicals was vested in a joint conference of the chief procurator of the Synod and the ministers of internal affairs, justice, and public education.The censors persecutions forced the closure of many newspapers and journalsfor example, of Sovremennik and Russkoe slovo in 1866, and of Otechestvennye zapiski in 1884. The press was not allowed to report on political trials, strikes, or peasants agitations. In 1895 the censors destroyed the collection Material for a Characterization of Our Economic Development, which contained V. I. Lenins article The Economic Content of Narodni-chestvo and the Criticism of It in Mr. Struves Book. Between 1865 and 1904, a total of 218 books was destroyed, 173 periodicals were given 282 warnings, 218 orders were issued prohibiting retail sales, and 27 publications were suspended. Between 1865 and 1901, ten different journals and 205 books were banned from public libraries and reading rooms; authors whose works were banned included N. G. Chernyshevskii, N. A. Dobroliubov, A. I. Herzen, D. I. Pisarev, L. N. Tolstoy, and N. S. Leskov.Under pressure of the revolutionary movement, the government issued temporary regulations on Nov. 24, 1905, and on Apr. 26, 1906, abolishing the system of prior censorship and again making authors and publishers responsible to the law courts. Nevertheless, the special security system providing for increased protection and emergency protection, which had been put into effect almost everywhere after the suppression of the December Armed Uprisings of 1905, gave broad scope to arbitrary administrative measures: between October 1905 and January 1907, 361 books were seized, 371 periodicals were closed, and 607 authors and editors were imprisoned or fined. Censorship was continuously used as a weapon of the tsarist regime in the latters struggle against the revolutionary movement and against democratic literature and journalism.The Constitution of the USSR, in accordance with the peoples interests and in order to strengthen and develop the socialist system, guarantees freedom of the press to all citizens. State control has been established in order to prevent the publication of certain news items in the public press and their dissemination through the mass medianamely, news items that reveal state secrets or that may be harmful to the interests of the working people.

REFERENCESSkabichevskii, A. M. Ocherki istorii russkoi tsenzury (17001863). St. Petersburg, 1892.Lemke, M. K. Epokha tsenzurnykh reform, 18591865 gg. St. Petersburg, 1904.Lemke, M. K. Ocherkipo istorii russkoi tsenzury i zhurnalistiki XIX st. St. Petersburg, 1904.Rozenberg, V., and V. Iakushkin. Russkaia pechat i tsenzura v ee proshlom i nastoiashchem. Moscow, 1905.Nikitenko, A. V. Dnevnik, vols. 13. Moscow, 195556.Feoktistov, E. M. Vospominaniia: Za kulisami politiki i literatury, 184818%. Leningrad, 1929.Berezhnoi, A. F. Tsarskaia tsenzura i borba bolshevikov za svobodu pechati (18951914). Leningrad, 1967.Baluev, B. P. Politicheskaia reaktsiia 80-kh godov XIX v. i russkaia zhurnalistika. Moscow, 1971.Svodnyi katalog russkoi nelegalnoi i zapreshchennoi pechati XIX v., parts 19. Moscow, 1971.


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