Media & Censorship: Do the two go together?

Posted on 18 March 2012 by Sharal Barboza

Research has revealed that the media is responsible for influencing a major part of our daily life. Media has the power to call for a change in the attitudes and beliefs of the common man. The persuasive nature of the content presented in the media influences the thoughts and behavioural pattern of the general public. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that media has a direct impact on the lifestyle and nature of society.

While most countries have gifted their citizens the freedom of speech and expression, some countries try to counter the abuse of this right by a select few by restricting the way in which this speech and expression are received. Basically, while you’re allowed to say anything you want and do whatever your heart desires (as long as it is within the legal framework), you may not be free to listen or to appreciate someone else’s speech or action (one that is deemed to be volatile or anti-social by a government body or the society). This is the whole crux of censorship; censoring or banning content (and its reception) that is deemed volatile, harmful to society and counter-productive.

But who decides what is volatile, counter-productive or harmful to national security/society? How is content to be classified as worthy of censoring or not?

It is governmental bodies and unwritten-yet-widely-followed-societal-norms that decide what needs to be censored or not. For example, most countries call for complete censorship of pornographic material. If aired on TV, or available on other easily accessible forms of media, this form of content can corrupt children and create havoc in the society. Similarly, violence and violent content, content that can hurt religious sentiments too demand complete censorship.

Also, the amount of censorship or the cut-off level which defines what to show and what not to show differs from country to country. One of the most common ways of media censorship is by enforcing age-limits. This means that people below a certain pre-determined age cannot view or be exposed to a certain form on content.

However, it is not so simple and easy to define what can be censored and when and how. Many burning questions demand immediate answers. How much freedom is good? What needs to censored and why? What’s the point of your right to speak if there is no one to listen to what you are saying? Doesn’t the very concept of censorship clash with the idea of democracy? If we allow censorhip, then what is the difference between democracy and dictatorship?

We all know and agree that media has brought about a major transformation in the way the masses think. Media has given them an excellent platform to present themselves before the world and to contribute in their own way to the changing world scenario. It is responsible for shrinking the world further.I think, media censorship is all about degree; about how much to show and how much to hide. I’d like to end by saying that if used properly, censorship serves as a valuable tool; if not then our right to creative freedom is at stake.

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