Marymount Model of United Nations marymun 2011 Economic and Social Council (ecosoc) Handbook Topic B: Media Censorship Background



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Marymount Model of United Nations


Marymount Model of United Nations

MARYMUN 2011

Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

Handbook

Topic B: Media Censorship

Background

Censorship is the act of removing or withholding information from the public by a controlling group or body. This means that no one can broadcast or publish anything considered immoral or harmful, or that threatens the country’s “stability”. Censorship manipulates information and ideas circulated within a society. In the 20th Century, censorship can be found when the content of books, plays, films, television and radio programs, news reports are questioned, and it is used to alter or restrain ideas found to be inappropriate or offensive.

Censorship has followed free expression like a shadow throughout history. Although it is usually associated with communist or authoritarian regimes, it is also imposed by religious groups, corporations or the mass media, as well as by democratic governments.

In the modern age, with the advanced technology that is available, information is shared much more easily and a lot more quickly. It is very simple to be aware of issues and controversies from countries all over the world. The right to free expression in the media is a delicate and fragile liberty that can be easily trampled upon through a variety of means, including outright censorship or insidious intimidation.

Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The rationales for censorship have varied, with some censors targeting material regarded to be immoral or obscene. Ideas have been restrained under the guise of preserving social institutions such as the family, the church, and the state. Censorship varies in different times, and societies. Every society has different customs, taboos, or laws by which speech, dress, religious observance, and sexual expression are regulated. Censorship is often concerned about some issues such as vulgarity (sexually explicit content), violence and racism. Sexual content is a target for censorship because opponents claim the public have the right to be provided instruction on sexuality, while some consider the topic strongly related to religious and moral overtones. Censorship also argues that violent content is a popular entertainment, that some books, movies and video games trivialize violence. Racial discourse in media is often considered as insensitive because it may lead to the creation of stereotypes.

Most of the countries have freedom of speech and expression, yet some others restrict this freedom. Each country censors the media in different ways at different levels. There are different types of censorship; the most common is the age limit set for viewing different branches of the media. As these levels of censorship exist, some people will always ask for it to be removed completely. But some situation always comes up where more rules and limits are asked for.

Pros and cons of media censorship

Pros:


  • To reduce the amount of violence on TV, mostly for children. We need to teach what is right. Certain people believe it may be beneficial to young people who have come of age to realise that killing people is illegal and immoral.

  • Sex is another important topic in censorship. With sex, we mean porn and its impact on children. As is the case with violence, it may be shown to people of a certain age because of their maturity.

  • Advertisements of alcohol and cigarettes. Some countries believe this type of products have a negative effect on their society.

  • Security of secrets. This helps governments to keep some information for themselves, information that might put the security of their society in danger. Society needs to believe in their government’s trustworthiness. One example of where this trust was broken was in the recent situation with Wikileaks.

  • Media as a powerful force. This can happen only if the information is used properly.

Cons:

  • Government interests. The government can decide what can be published and what not. Obviously they will always want to appear perfect, a fact that is rarely so. In this situation, media censorship is used to keep the people ignorant.

  • Sex was mentioned before as a pro, used for sex education which needs to be spread. But the doubt is whether to decide what to publish or not.

  • Ignorance is a big problem world-wide. The media help them know more and to be better informed. The media also helps people to be communicated with each other worldwide.

  • Freedom, because people say it limits their rights of speech. If there is no one to listen you, what’s the point of expressing yourself.


Situation in Egypt: There are some countries that have media censorship. The most recent country that has applied media censorship is Egypt. Hosni Mubarak was Egypt’s president for over thirty years. His government is claimed to have been corrupt and with a lack of justice. The Egyptian people were tired of the way he was governing the country. In late January of 2011, people started to revolt against him and his presidency. The revolts were all over the news causing tremendous concern. The president decided to calm the people down by censoring their media. But this only caused people to be angrier and a hostile environment developed. Violent clashes occurred between pro-Mubarak and anti-Mubarak protestors, and after days of unrest, Mubarak announced that he would leave the presidency.

During the problem, 91% of the internet networks of the country were not working. The government ordered the four local Egyptian ISPs to switch off their services. Some mobile services were down too, on orders of the Egyptian government. The internet is a global form of communication, and by taking it away, it is taking away their freedom of expression. Egypt’s economy and society were deeply affected by these few days of media blackout.



Objectives

The main objective is to get to know the different point of view of every country on the topic. Some countries are in favor of censoring the media, and this might be helpful for other countries. The key is to listen to everyone’s ideas and solutions so that we can reach the best resolution for everyone. The delegates must be informed about the latest news, as there’s always something new about the topic. So even when you have your position paper ready, you must keep watching the news about your country, related to the topic, so that in the Model you can discuss the latest news. Our main goal is to regulate the freedom of expression in such a way that both liberal and freer-thinking countries are satisfied.



Countries : China, Egypt, USA, North Korea, Cuba, Mexico
Questions to consider:

  1. Does your country have any type of censorship?

  2. Are there any laws that promote freedom of speech?

  3. Does your country have a history related to censorship?

  4. Does your country allow every type of information to be public?

  5. Is your country’s society dependent on religious laws?


Sources for further research

  • http://www.cpj.org/censored/censored_06.html

  • http://munofs-iii.wikispaces.com/file/view/ECOSOC,+Media+Censorship+and+Social+Development.pdf

  • http://www.wanttoknow.info/mass_media/media_censorship_09

  • http://www.cpj.org/censored/censored_06.html

  • Latest News: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/censorship


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