Cases of censorship today

Map: press freedom ranking
Freedom of the press worldwide 2014
© Reporter ohne Grenzen

Cases of censorship today

Freedom of the press as a fragile good

Once you’ve developed an appetite for freedom, it stays in your heart and no-one can ever take it away. It can make you stronger than an entire nation.

The arrested Chinese artist and regime critic Ai Weiwei in an interview Alison Klayman, 2012

The widespread processes of liberalisation and democratisation over the last 250 years have brought freedom of the press to most areas of central Europe. In Germany, Article 5 of the Constitution contains the unequivocal statement: “There shall be no censorship.” However even here there is periodic curtailment of the right to frank and forthright expressions of opinion – especially where it intersects with other areas of criminal law. The public dissemination of materials which espouse racism, glorify violence or defame individuals, for instance, may be affected by indexing, banning and confiscation and other measures of state sanction. When it comes to legal protection of young people, institutions such as the Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors (since 1954) and the Voluntary Self-Regulatory Association for the Film Industry (FSK, since 1948) regulate access to media content which is considered problematic.

Apart from these categories, suppression of public reporting in Germany serves largely to protect individuals, but censorship still represents a widespread means for consolidating political power in other parts of the world. In authoritarian regimes such as China, North Korea and Iran, for example, well-staffed censorship networks constantly monitor Internet content which might be critical of their respective regimes, blocking access to foreign websites and deleting contributions from its own citizens. The issue of censorship tends to attract media attention in the form of distinctive individual cases, including the Ayatollah Khomeini’s call for the death of writer Salman Rushdie (1989), the conflict over the Danish Mohammed caricatures (2005) and the trial of Russian music group Pussy Riot (2012).