6.2 Censorship and freedom of speech
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 Ken Park was refused classification (banned) in Australia in 2003 because it deals with matters of sex in a way that offends the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults.
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 regulatory bodies:
These bodies work within the confines of relevant legislation including:
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 for the dissemination of information, new questions over the individual's rights are being raised.
Recent censorship issues in Australia include: