“When France sneezes Europe catches a cold.” — Klemens von Metternich
In the year 1848, the whole of Central Europe revolted. From France, to the German States, to the Austrian Empire, to the Italian States, Denmark and others. These revolutions happened almost spontaneously but simultaneously. The year 1848 was referred to as The Springtime of Nations or The Springtime of the People or simply put, The Year of Revolution. Why Springtime? Because these revolts were a landmark event in European diplomacy, nation building and growth. Amongst the many reasons for the outbreak of the revolution in France, Press Censorship was one. Just last week, Elon Musk, the world’s richest man completed his bid to buy Twitter at a whopping $44 billion because he said that Twitter doesn’t promote free speech and his intention was(is) to make speech free for all on the platform. What is Press Censorship? Has there ever been a period in the history of mankind when the press wasn’t censored? Are there any benefits of press censorship?
In 2017, for over 90 days, the government of Cameroon cut off internet access in the two Anglophone regions of the country. Reason? It was as a means to curb spread of propaganda or misleading information on the “crisis” But was that really the case? Dictators and authoritarian regimes all over space and time have all advanced that as a reason for press censorship. Because they say, the pen is bigger than the sword(or gun) or whatever they say… Have these statesmen been frightened by the influence the words of these people of letters could have on their people? Maybe that’s why they censor press and speech.
During our years in High School and University, those who belonged to the journalism clubs would testify that even though they were given the Liberty to write on almost every topic, they weren't allowed to publish/report on every topic. Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information. This may be done on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or “inconvenient”. Censorship can be conducted by governments, private institutions and other controlling bodies. The very essence of censorship was/is to monitor that what is being said or written, is not not in the best interest of the people in charge. And from time immemorial, I don't think there has ever been a period without press censorship. It has always existed and will always do.
But are there benefits of this act? Like the Bible would say, "spare the rod and spoil the child" There is a difference between freedom and liberty and though the interference of the state(those in charge) might sometimes seem overwhelming, press censorship is often essential so that there can be no misinformation, disinformation and the spread of false and radical propaganda. I'd love to call it the necessary evil in modern society. Because with the advent of Social Media and its innumerable vices, it has become easier to spread false propaganda and hate under the banner of "freedom of speech"
While we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, we remember the heroes who died trying to unravel the truth. We also frown at those who know the truth but don't say it. And lastly, at those who try to deform the truth. The truth is that the pen alone can't rule, neither can the gun. A perfect blend of both gives a more balanced society. I am an advocate of the freedom of speech that tells the truths that matter, that are primordial. The speech that denounces all sorts of societal ills like corruption, nepotism, tribalism. I am not for the kind of speech that promotes tribalism and seeks to destabilize the nation. So to every speech, there should be a censor.
Sometimes, there is no silver linen - the cloud is just dark.