Political Censorship

Political censorship exists when a government attempts to conceal, distort, or falsify information that its citizens receive by suppressing or crowding out political news that the public might receive through news outlets. In the absence of unflattering but objective information, people will be unable to dissent with the government or political party in charge. It is also the suppression of views that are contrary to those of the government in power. The government often has the power of the army and the secret police, to enforce the compliance of journalists with the will of the government to extol the story that the government wants people to believe, at times even with bribery, ruin of careers, imprisonment, and even assassination.

The word censorship comes from the Latin word censor, the job of two Romans whose duty was to supervise public behaviour and morals, hence ‘censoring’ the way people acted.

Journalist prison census

According to the 2008 prison census by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the world’s biggest jailers of journalists are:[1]

  1. People’s Republic of China
  2. Cuba
  3. Burma
  4. Eritrea
  5. Uzbekistan

Political censorship in practice

Independent journalism did not exist in the Soviet Union until Mikhail Gorbachev became its leader; all reporting was directed by the Communist Party or related organizations. Pravda, the predominant newspaper in the Soviet Union, had a near-monopoly. Foreign newspapers were available only if they were published by Communist Parties sympathetic to the Soviet Union.

Nikolai Yezhov, standing to the right of Joseph Stalin, was shot in 1940. He was edited out of the photo by Soviet censors after his execution as a form of damnatio memoriae. This policy was commonly applied to executed political enemies during Stalin's reign.

Iraq under Arab socialist Saddam Hussein had much the same techniques of press censorship as did Romania under Nicolae Ceauşescu but with greater potential violence.

Cuban media is operated under the supervision of the Communist Party’s Department of Revolutionary Orientation, which “develops and coordinates propaganda strategies”.[3]

Censorship also takes place in capitalist nations. In 1973, a military coup took power in Uruguay, and the State practiced censorship. For example, writer Eduardo Galeano was imprisoned and later was forced to flee. His book Open Veins of Latin America was banned by the right-wing military government, not only in Uruguay, but also in Chile and Argentina. [4]

Many countries’ campaign finance laws restrict speech on candidates and political issues. In Citizens United v. FEC, the United States Supreme Court found that many such restrictions are an unconstitutional form of censorship.


  1. ^ “CPJ’s 2008 prison census: Online and in jail”. http://cpj.org/reports/2008/12/cpjs-2008-prison-census-online-and-in-jail.php.
  2. ^ The Commissar vanishes (The Newseum)
  3. ^ “10 most censored countries”. The Committee to Protect Journalists. http://www.cpj.org/censored/censored_06.html.
  4. ^ http://www.democracynow.org/2009/5/28/eduardo
5 comments on “Political Censorship
  1. […] Political Censorship « Censorship in AmericaPolitical censorship – Description: Political censorship exists when a government attempts to conceal, distort, or falsify information that its citizens … […]


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