Table of Contents
Censorship can be defined as an activity to prohibit certain facts, ideas, images or words that may be considered offensive on personal, political or moral grounds. These activities are generally carried out by the governments of the respective countries. However, in some cases, different private pressure groups are also allocated with the task of carrying out such activities (American Civil Liberties Union, 2017). In the present context, the power and reach of media has grown significantly with the advancement of technology. The traditional thoughts and methods of journalism has shifted towards the internet driven communication tools with the advent of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube among others (Bennett & Naim, 2015).
It has further been observed that the power of delivering news to the general public has significantly decreased from the government and moved to the individual bloggers and citizen journalists. However, the government is still considered as the role model in defining the contents that are produced, shared and consumed in general (Bennett & Naim, 2015). In recent times, the pressure applied by censorship in the mass media contents has reduced largely. This has hence raised several questions on the areas of broadcasting and publishing, where the monitoring of contents will be necessary. The implementation of censorship is made for general betterment but there still exists varied contradictory opinions on such issues (ConnectUS, 2015).
Governments of each country possess different policies related to censorship in journalism and mass media in a view to sustain high ethical and moral standards within its territories. There are some countries such as North Korea, Burma, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China and Syria among others, where internet media is controlled highly by the government. In contrast to the western cultures, the countries such as China and North Korea experiences high rigidity in the censorship activities of the government (USA Today, 2014). The essay aims to discuss the different aspects of censorship in journalism along with its advantages and disadvantages to develop an idea about its ultimate impact on the overall society.
Censorships in journalism and mass media have innumerable positive impacts on the overall society that has made it extremely essential to be included in the present world. The technological transition has made internet the focal point for journalism and information sharing. Besides, television media and print media have also been used widely. The wide range of technological use in journalism has made certain contents to be a threat to religious beliefs and politics of a nation. This has made several countries to impose excessive efforts to block those contents for the general viewers (USA Today, 2014). However, these excessive regulations from the government may also prove to be negative in varied circumstances. The impacts of censorship in journalism can be clearly analysed with an idea of the advantages and disadvantages of such activities.
Censorship benefiting Journalism
The benefits of journalism and its censorship can be identified from diverse perspectives according to its nature. In the present context, the benefits related to censorship in journalism have been discussed below:
Impact on Children and Adolescents
Censorship poses a tremendous impact on the individuals, who are unable to judge the right and wrong contents. The children are the ones that generally come into this category. There are numerous researches of the past that has focused on the influence of violent and aggressive media on the activities of children. The impact of such media is dreadful as it includes decreased sensitivity to violence, anti-social behaviours as well as decreased engagement with parents and peer (Wiedeman et.al., 2015). The use of internet has become quite common for the young students in the educational area as it provides valuable resource for their studies. However, there is certain information that needs to be kept away from them as they do not have the capacity to understand real and fabricated information available through media. Apart from informational issues, the children may also get access to harmful materials such as pornography and formulas of making weapons, bombs and drugs, which may in turn involve them into illegal activities (Bitso et.al., 2013).
Concerning these issues, it becomes very important for the government to protect the children from getting exposed to such media activities. There are several steps taken from the side of the government to provide a healthy access of internet to the children. The efforts of the government on censorship are also getting more vibrant as the number of journalists and reporter channels on internet are increasing at a rapid pace. In the year 2000, Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was enacted to protect children against illicit and harmful contents over the internet. In the later years, there were amendments made in a section of the US Communications Act, 1934 that was termed as ‘Protecting Children in the 21st century Act’. These steps can be considered as certain examples that ensure proper monitoring of the content viewed on the online platform by the children, thereby making them aware about the appropriate online behaviours (Abbasi & Al-Sharqi, 2015).
Security and Privacy of Information
There exists some sensitive information of the government or some corporate organisation that gets viral easily among the general public with the help of different communication mediums. Such information has the ability to create panic among all. Thus, it becomes beneficial to hide the information to reduce the risks and threats associated to it. Generally, the government of nations, political parties and religious groups among others are associated with such activities although there are cases, where the journalists apply the method of suppressing information that can prove to be dangerous for the general public (Yesil, 2014).
These types of practices are good in certain areas but hiding information by the government and the journalists are not encouraged in any circumstance. Hiding information helps the journalists to protect their jobs and lives, but this violates the principle of transparency as adequate information do not reach the readers and are made to remain under the shadows of hidden information. Such practices are harmful for the concerned journalists as it creates uncertainty in their career of journalism (Yesil, 2014). Self-censoring practices and hiding sensitive information have become highly practical in the modern times as the negative image of the concerned journalist can be easily identified using the modern transparent online environment in case such practices are not preformed effectively (Chirumalla, 2013).
Censorship in journalism plays a significant role in reducing the risks related to the circulation of irrelevant, biased and fabricated information to the general public. As the reach of journalism is escalating, the threats related to the supply of exaggerated and fabricated information is also found to be rising. In countries such as China, the government puts efforts to deliver fabricated and deceptive writings through the social media streams, which seems real to the viewers. The base of social media users are quite high and can be effectively compared to the western countries. The government hires a number of individuals for this work in order to post millions of social media comments every year. This has been done to reduce the arguments of the political skeptics and to keep the general public away from controversial issues (King et. al., 2017).
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However, this type of activities are not always made with a good motive and in such cases the vital role is played by censorship to control the spreading of these fabricated and biased information. As the task of censorship is to control the impact of harmful, dangerous and inappropriate contents and information on the government and corporate organizations, the efforts to mitigate these issues have to be effectively undertaken. The incorporation of proper censorship therefore has the chances to help in promoting an environment, where information through journalism can be viewed as authentic and free from any biasness (Ragnedda, 2014).
Negative Impacts of Censorship in Journalism
Apart from the regular positive outcomes that are obtained by incorporating proper censorship in journalism and mass media, there are certain negative impacts as well. These negatives are mentioned below.
Shaping the Mindset of New Generation
Censoring sensitive information is vital in many aspects but in several cases, it may seem irrational to block information as it restricts the viewers to obtain the awareness on the facts that they need to know. Censorship from either the governments or from the individual journalists’ end creates a barrier in the freedom of speech, which can in turn detach general public from their basic rights (ConnectUS, 2015). It is a period, where there is a good scope of gaining vital knowledge through content sharing and public information. The development of minds and thoughts of the individuals highly depends on the information that they receive through the journalism. Thus, a hindrance in these channels restricts the development of minds of the general population. Among all, the students studying in the schools are found to be mostly affected due to censorship in journalism and mass media information as their capacity to explore new dimensions, creativity, imagination, intellectual capacities, reasoning and others limit them in becoming a critical thinker (National Coalition Against Censorship, 2016).
Biased Views, Perception and Modified Truth
In the process of minimizing the risks of panic and distress amid the general public, there are certain steps taken by the government so that information remain undisclosed to a large extent. Moreover, in some countries, where heavy restriction exists in relation to censorship in media activities, the information delivered to the general public is modified in order to change their perception in accordance with the needs of the government. The government of China therefore provides a vivid example that is largely associated with these types of activities. In such a case, it benefits the general public to stay away from the controversial political, social and religious issues but the process provides differential viewpoints for the public to change their thought process. These artificial viewpoints are hence expected to keep them away from the actual world of truth and knowledge (King et.al., 2017).
Limitations of Creativity
To promote creativity of the individuals, diversity of knowledge among them is required, which is possible only through effective implementation of the journalism mediums. The mediums are capable enough to provide important knowledge to the public at good convenience. However, there are different areas, where censorship in media activities through government or from the end of the journalists restricts the general public from obtaining actual data. Moreover, hiding information and self-censoring activities makes the public unable to access vital facts thus, creating a hindrance in the individual creativity process (Yesil, 2014). It can hence be observed that the process of creativity starts in the growing years. The children and teens studying in the schools are the ones, who possess the best capacity to adopt the mindset to have creative ideas. The blocking of ideas through censorship therefore creates immense problem for them to develop their minds, think critically and increase creativity (National Coalition Against Censorship, 2016).
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The discussion about the benefits and the negatives of censorship in the journalism provides a clear idea about its nature and effects. Censorship is popular since a long time, which shows its actual effectiveness. As journalism is creating new dimensions and the means of communication has become wider, the role of censorship has become a vital aspect in the present context. It has further been understood that the main function of censorship in journalism and mass media is to reduce the risks related to social, political, religious or cultural tensions that can create problems, chaos and distress among the general public. However, some government bodies and individual journalists take the advantage of censorship in order to keep the general public deprived of the required information.
After gaining the basic ideas on censorship, it has become important to analyze its role in the current situation of journalism. It can hence be stated that there is a prominent requirement of censorship in journalism. However, in order to extract the actual benefits, it is important to reduce the negative impacts so that the required information of journalists can be made available to the general public. The activities such as hiding information, modifying vital facts, fabrication, biased information, self-censoring and others must be minimized as far as possible in order to increase the effectiveness of censorship in journalism, thereby delivering accurate knowledge and information to the public.
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