What is Censorship? History, types and causes

The existence of censorship is as old as the existence of mankind. From the smallest societies, from empires to nation states, censorship has always existed. So what is censorship? We have prepared a detailed content for you by citing examples from the history of censorship.

What is Censorship?

Censorship is the act of blocking or restricting the publication, distribution or access of certain content or information. The purpose of censorship is to protect content that is perceived as harmful, inappropriate, offensive or dangerous, often by the government, media, institutions or individuals. Censorship can be applied in many fields, especially political, cultural, social, scientific and artistic.

Censorship can threaten fundamental human rights in a society, such as freedom of thought, freedom of expression and an uncensored press. Censorship can have consequences such as suppressing free thinking, cutting off the flow of information and blocking ideas and discussions. For this reason, censorship practices are criticized in many societies and movements against these practices are emerging.

The word censorship is derived from the Latin cencer, which means ‘to judge’ or ‘to have an opinion’. In many countries, censorship is used to prevent criticism of the government, that is, those in power, just as censorship is used to prevent the dissemination of violent, open or confidential documents. Censorship has been practiced in human history since ancient times, but in societies where people are aware of their personal rights and freedoms and where freedom of thought and press is widely accepted, censorship is accepted as an instrument of oppression. It is also defined as the most effective weapon of dictators in modern societies.

History of censorship


In Christianity, too, the Catholic Church’s list of banned books limited the number of books that could be read for many years. Censorship, commonly practiced for the protection of the state, the dominant religion and morality, was institutionalized with the invention of the printing press and the increase in book printing. In other words, governments have put censorship on a legal basis for the protection of the public interest and created the institution of censorship in the modern sense. Looking at it, “RTÜK” is a modern censorship institution effective on the media in our country.

The first censor in England was appointed by King Henry in 1531. Censorship was strictly enforced in the American colonies. But in the 17th and 18th centuries, steps were taken to reduce the effect of censorship in the context of freedom of speech and press initiated by England and the US. This is how work began for an environment that promises freedom.

The process of democratizing societies and limiting censorship go hand in hand. Repressive governments still see censorship as a means of controlling society. The strict censorship practice in socialist countries was ended in 1989 due to the change in the political and social structure.

Censorship in the Ottoman Empire

The first official censorship practices in the Ottoman period began with the Matbuat Nizamiyesi (Press Ordinance) of 1864. This statute allowed the publishing of newspapers and magazines and empowered the government to shut down the media when they needed to esteemed. In other words, even a small criticism of the sultan, that publication body was closed. For him, the magazines that lived in this period did not last long.

Beginning in 1878, II. Abdulhamid’s government applied censorship in the strictest manner. Founded in 1881, Encümen-i Teftiş ve Sahne was authorized to inspect newspapers, magazines and books before publishing them. This period is referred to as the darkest period in terms of the press and broadcasters. Many magazines and newspapers were discontinued. Everything printed was controlled according to the political order, newspapers were censored for the slightest error or their publishing life was ended altogether. Newspapers had to publish by leaving the censored places empty.

II. The Constitutional Monarchy (1908) abolished press censorship. Therefore II. July 23, the date of the declaration of the constitutional monarchy, is celebrated as a press day in the Republic of Turkey. During the armistice periods, the press was severely censored by the occupying forces in Istanbul and Anatolia.

Types of censorship


Censorship is a mechanism of restriction and control that can be applied in many ways in different fields such as cultural, political and ideological. That is why there are different types of censorship. Here are some types of censorship:

1. Cultural censorship

Cultural censorship is the control or limitation of the content of a society’s cultural, artistic and literary products. This type of censorship is often used to restrict content that is perceived to conflict with a country’s history, customs, and values.

2. Political censorship

Political censorship is the control or prohibition of political views, propaganda and activities in a country. This type of censorship is used to silence political dissidents, curb social movements, and prevent the spread of anti-government information.

3. Ideological censorship

Ideological censorship is the control or restriction of a particular ideology or way of thinking in a country. This type of censorship is used to prevent dissent, support government policies, or suppress anti-government ideas.

4. Media censorship

Media censorship is the control or limitation of the content of news, articles, movies, radio and television programs. This form of censorship is used by the government to prevent the spread of incorrect or anti-government information.

5. Internet censorship

Internet censorship disrupts the access of Internet users in a country by blocking or filtering certain websites. This type of censorship is used to increase government control over certain websites, apps, or social media platforms.

6. Self-censorship

Self-censorship is a form of censorship exercised by an author, artist or media organization to pre-check or limit the publication of the content. This kind of censorship is often used to maintain appropriate and acceptable standards, especially in the cultural and artistic fields.

Reasons for censorship


Censorship is a restriction and control mechanism that can be applied in many different areas. So, what are the reasons for censorship? Here are some key reasons:

  • Censorship can be applied to maintain control in society.
  • Governments or authorities may use censorship to prevent the spread of a particular idea or prevent a movement from gaining momentum in society.
  • It can be applied to preserve the culture of a society or to defend certain values.
  • In particular, cultural censorship can be applied on the basis of the idea that traditions, religious beliefs or national values ​​should be protected.
  • It can be applied to protect a political power itself.
  • Governments can try to maintain their political power by curbing dissent and silencing dissenting voices.
  • It is applied to protect society’s sensibilities on certain issues or to protect the rights of an individual.
  • Censorship can be used to prevent the spread of violent content or extremist ideas.
  • It can be used to prevent or support the spread of a particular ideology.
  • This kind of censorship can be a tool used by the government or ideological groups to spread their own ideas or suppress competing ideas.
  • It can be applied to protect a country’s national security.
  • Censorship can be used to prevent the dissemination of national security information or military secrets.

The effects of censorship on society and art


Censorship can have many consequences for society and the arts. Here are the possible effects of censorship in these areas:

Social pressure: Censorship can exert pressure in society. In particular, censorship practices that prevent the dissemination of a particular thought or idea can create pressure and restrictions in society. This situation can weaken the belief in freedom of thought and freedom of expression in society.

Lack of information: Censorship can lead to a lack of information in society. People who want to receive information about a certain subject cannot access this information due to censorship. This can make it difficult for society to make an informed decision.

Restriction of originality of art: Censorship can limit creativity in the arts. Censorship, which restricts the processing of a particular idea or topic, can limit the originality of art, leading to the blandness of artwork and a lack of creativity.

Change of artworks: Censorship can lead to alteration of artworks. In particular, censorship of a particular part or expression of a work can lead to the corruption of the original structure of the work. This can lead to artworks being perceived and understood in a way that deviates from the artist’s original intent.

Restrictions on artists’ freedom: Censorship can restrict artists’ freedom. Censorship, which restricts artists’ freedom of thought or expression on a particular subject, can hinder the development of art by restricting their creativity and expression.

Does censorship violate freedom of expression?

Yes, censorship violates freedom of speech. Freedom of expression includes the right of everyone to express their thoughts and obtain information. Censorship may limit these rights.

What effect does censorship have on art?

Censorship can limit the originality of art and reduce the understanding or impact of the message or emotion of artworks. Censorship can also hinder the development of art by restricting the freedom of artists.

What effect does censorship have on society?

Censorship can put pressure on society and create a lack of information. In addition, censorship can weaken society’s belief in freedom of thought and freedom of expression.

Is censorship compatible with democracy?

No, censorship is not compatible with democracy. The basic principles of democracy include freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of the press. Censorship can limit these freedoms and hinder the development of a democratic society.

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