What is censorship?

Censorship is the suppression of information or ideas. Censorship occurs when access to material whose content is considered offensive, is restricted.

For example: :The film Salo is one of Australian censorships most notorious titles. First banned in 1976 for indecency, it continued to be refused classification over ensuing years. The film was finally granted DVD release in 2010 though court appeals have since been ongoing.

The free flow of information and ideas can be impeded at the societal, institutional or individual level.

The societal level

Legal and regulatory frameworks are designed to support the interests and concerns of society as a whole.

In Australia, there are three national regulatory bodies:

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These bodies work within the confines of relevant legislation including:

  • Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995
  • Broadcasting Services Act 1992

The institutional level

Libraries can affect the free flow of information and ideas via the selection and acquisition of materials.

The individual level

Individual citizens can exercise their rights and responsibilities by making informed decisions.

What is freedom of speech?

Freedom of speech is the right to express opinions freely without interference.

The right to free speech is affirmed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19).

The Australian Constitution however does not have a provision concerning freedom of speech. So the free flow of information and ideas can be restricted through censorship legislation and other laws (provided they are not in conflict with other areas of the constitution).

Censorship versus freedom of speech

The issue of censorship versus freedom of speech has always been a hotly contested topic.

With the increasing use of electronic media, particularly social media, for the dissemination of information, new questions over the individual's rights are being raised. Consider the case of the Wikileaks controversy as described in Wikipedia. The creation and dissemination of information on Wikileaks would not have been possible without the development of certain technologies such as electronic documents, electronic communication and social media.