It is hard to believe that censorship is still a present norm in our world today. Living in a nation where the rare occurrence of revealed censorship can lead to intense uproar has sheltered most of us, and has also created a bubble in which whenever we hear of censorship in other nations it sounds foreign and almost unbelievable. For many other countries, censorship of news, social media, or even artwork in order to avoid political discourse among citizens is an everyday battle for freedom of expression.
This week, in a region of Essex, England known as Clacton-on-Sea, a council ordered the removal of graffiti art that opposed the conservative town’s view on immigration reform. Tying in the fact that this town is coming up on election time, the council wanted to avoid political discourse on their conservative values that could have been stirred up by this influential artwork. However, the council had no idea at the time that this graffiti art was done by the anonymous yet world-renowned artist called Banksy. Banksy’s painting showed five grey pigeons – most likely representing the members of the town – holding up picket signs that attempted to thwart a colorful, migratory swallow – an immigrant – from entering their domain. This is a clear jab at the towns desire to restrain immigration to Clacton-on-Sea.
The council attempted to avoid such political agendas from arousing the town, but by censoring what can be done and seen in the town via artwork, they inadvertently drew more attention to the situation. Not exactly going so far as to control their citizens every move, the council took on a very Big Brother-esque position by deciding what people in this area can and cannot see. If you are that afraid of your citizens being influenced enough to switch political affiliations, then try and keep their eye on your issues and viewpoints. Censorship such as this should never be utilized to keep political power; it contradicts democratic laws and ethics in general.
Another example of recent censorship comes with the current riots in Hong Kong. The riots stem from pro-democracy students and adults who are angry with Chinese legislation. Elections used to be controlled by a committee of 1,200 with many Beijing loyalists influencing the group’s decision. But recently ratified policy will now allow the city of 5 million the opportunity to vote for their own officials, so long as the vote is for one of the Beijing handpicked candidates. This new policy renders voting pointless and is why so many riots are occurring in the city. Moreover, the ruckus caused by the rioters has caused congestion in heavily populated regions of Hong Kong, sparking violence between pro-democracy protesters and those who want to get on with their careers and lives. In order to avoid uproar in mainland Chinese towns and cities, the government has censored social media. For example, certain hashtags on Twitter were banned and Instagram was shut down completely to avert any information that the government could not censor or control getting to mainlanders.
Many try to justify censorship as a way of preventing hysteria among citizens; a caveat of political responsibilities that is necessary for order. However, usually censorship just causes more chaos as citizens of that nation and outsiders fight to be able to understand what is happening in the news and in the world around them. Censorship is not protection. If anything, it hinders our awareness of what goes on in the world.