Censorship: Who? What? Where?

History proves that even in instances of extreme suppression of freedom of speech, bold individuals have spoken up until an equilibrium was reached again. Scientists have been silenced before, but the willingness to fight for presenting what we call truth has never ceased to emerge. Journalists will not put down their pens until essential information reaches their audiences. Idealists, revolutionaries, and every citizen with a sense of justice should – and will – fight for their right to knowledge. Information belongs to everyone.

What defines censorship?

Censorship is defined as the suppression or prohibition of speech, writing, or any kind of public communication, when their moral implications are supposedly going against the ‘common good’. Information may be silenced when considered harmful, sensitive, objectionable, or politically incorrect. However, there is always someone who decides what the ‘common good’ is, and that a specific piece of information goes against it.

Censorship becomes unjustifiable when used by governments or other kinds of authorities as a practice to stop truths or ideas that would draw attention to the choices they make. If we ban speech, we will be left with unchallenged opinions based on prejudices and dogmas, and that are inherited rather than adopted.

What does that mean in my reality?

Working in a totalitarian state that employs censorship means that your reporting can be constrained in various ways. It can mean that your social media account is restricted, like in 2014 when Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Twitter “the biggest menace to society”. Now it’s even forbidden to use “Breaking News”titles to report about terror attacks, or to interview witnesses or show pictures of ambulances and police cars in these situations. But it can also mean going as far as reporters becoming victims of armed conflict or terrorism, like what is happening in South Sudan.

Reporters without Borders is an organization fighting for the right to freedom of speech and information. An index rates the degree of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries, combining questionnaires and interviews. Abuses of those rights and intensity of abuses and violence against media are evaluated, leading to a ranking of those countries.

Topics of the questionnaires include:
– Pluralism of reporting
– Media independence
– Environment in which news providers operate
– Legislative framework
– Transparency of the ones producing the information
– Quality of infrastructure supporting the news production
– Cases of abuses and violence

The survey lead to 65 countries being assigned the label “bad” or “very bad”, with only 16 in the “good” category.

What we can do about it?

We want to give voice to all those revolutionaries who go against their government, the power elites, or even “just” the mainstream. We will look at examples from history like Galileo, who had to go against the accepted view to convince the world that the Earth is not the centre of the Universe. But history doesn’t stop there. Revolutionaries can be found all around us, people who fight the established system of mass production, or brave individuals who are not afraid to speak out against the Mafia.

Sometimes when you go against the ones in charge, you will be ignored.
Sometimes you may feel like you are shouting against a wall.
Sometimes you may need others to come and help you break down that barrier.

We want to be a platform for breaking the silence against unjustifiable censorship. We hope that, by looking at examples and learning from people who have done it before, we will all feel less small, or not as hopeless. And who knows? This could even make you feel like you can take matters in your own hands and empower you to speak up yourself.

Katharina Kropshofer and Silvia Lazzaris

 

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