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Censorship vs. Self-censorship in the News Media Research Paper

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Updated: Feb 14th, 2019


Background of the study

The mass media influences the social world in many ways through its outlets such as films, news, movies, internet sites, books, and newspaper articles. The media is perceived to represent the social world because it forms the basis of the values and beliefs held by many people as the social norms (Croteau and Hoynes 157).

Apart from influencing the social world, the mass media can also influence the political world in diverse ways. This is because most people depend on the mass media for fundamental information concerning their governments, the corporate world, and politics in general.

Over the last few decades, it has been the sole role of the mass media to shed light on the major political events in the United States and other parts of the world. Events such as the McCarthy hearing of the 1950s, the Vietnam War (1960s), and the Clinton impeachment (1990s) are part of the numerous political events that have since been highlighted by the mass media through the visual media technology (Croteau and Hoynes 231).

Looking at these cases, it is noticeable that the mass media plays a fundamental role in displaying courtrooms’ realities, government organizations and also in battlefields. In order for media organizations to achieve their fundamental functions as stated above, there should be free flow of information between the mass media organizations and the consumers. This forms the basis of democracy within the media organizations and the society in general.

On the other hand, research indicates that the mass media experiences a variety of constraints particularly those associated with political pressures, economic and legal implications. In order to avoid the negative implications concerning their products and actions, most media organizations opt to censor some or parts of their products (Goldberg, Verhulst & Prosser 270).

This forms the basis of self-censorship, which is defined as the act undertaken by a mass media organization with the aim of expurgating its work due to fear or the need to respect other peoples’ interests without the involvement of any regulatory authority.

On the other hand, the government, economic, and political organizations can control the kind of information that the mass media presents to the society. This is a phenomenon known as censorship. Censorship includes suppression of the media contents and products which are perceived to be sensitive, damaging, objectionable, and inappropriate to the general public as ordered by the government or other regulatory agencies (Goldberg, et al. 270).

In a democratic society, both censorship and self-censorship have positive and negative implications on the independency of mass media. In this research paper, the key aspects of censorship versus self-censorship are analyzed in relation to how they undermine democracy in the news industry.

Additionally, the paper assesses the differences between the impact of censorship designed by the government and self-censorship as controlled by a corporate news organization on the democracy of news media. This is achieved through analyzing the concepts of censorship and self-censorship relative to a number of theoretical models and the issues presented by the Project Censored group.

Impact of self-censorship in undermining Democracy within the News Media

The impacts of censorship and self-censorship on democracy within the media industry can be looked at by analyzing media content and products and how independent the journalists are in events coverage. As mentioned above, mass media plays the fundamental role of shaping behaviors and attitudes in the social world through its content and products, which also defines and reflect the conditions prevailing in today’s world.

In this case, the content and products of media can be designed to represent the roles of men and women in the society, the good and the bad in the social set-ups in addition to other social disorders. Assessment of the appropriateness of the mass media in discharging the above-named duties forms the basis of the ideological analysis of the news media (Croteau and Hoynes 235).

In censorship, the government, political and economic organizations utilize the Marxist viewpoint of media ideology. Media ideology as used by these instruments refers to a system of values and beliefs, which justify the actions of authorities upon their subjects.

This undermines democracy within the news media by manipulating media products to serve the interests of a few individuals (Croteau and Hoynes 239). In this case, the free flow of information is hindered either by self-censorship, which aims at safeguarding the interests of the corporate organization, owning it as a business venture or for the purposes of censorship.

Censorship is mainly controlled by the government and the political elite with the intention of protecting their interests (Philips, Huff & Jamail 16).Before embarking on the act of censoring the content of a corporate news organization, the government or the political organization must analyze the ideological basis of the content.

Besides undermining democracy, this action is disadvantageous and inappropriate because it entails assessing the message contained in the news rather than the long-term implications of the message. The same is also true with self-censorship, which is also based on ideological analysis of the media content. Through these actions, information is produced which not to benefit the public but distortion of information to hinder public awareness (Philips et al. 16).

Additionally, censorship deprives the media of its freedom in social and political coverage. According to recent research, self-censorship of news organizations has been in use over a couple of years as a tool for normalization (Croteau and Hoynes 241). In this case, the media ideology is designed to represent the social norm and defiance.

Further more, such kind of news organizations tend to concentrate on issues that will attract less political and social objection. Therefore, it is normal for a television station to broadcast what is perceived to be socially, politically and economically normal rather than displaying social, political, and economic abnormalities that otherwise influence change.

Matters to do with squatters, homosexuality, cross-dressing and stripping are concealed by the political and social societies in order to avoid protestation (Goldberg et al. 270). Contrary to this, it is upon the media to display such social and political outcasts in order to allow the society to assess the extent to which its members are compliant with the norms and the possible weaknesses that need change (Croteau and Hoynes 241).

Recent studies have identified economic reason as a major contributing factor of self-censorship in the news industry. It is worth noting that most corporate news organizations are business ventures of corporate investors who are also the key players in the economic sector. Self-censorship comes in when media products are slant in order to serve the interests of the investors rather than the public.

These actions undermine democracy in the corporate news organizations in a variety of ways. Despite that many media organizations have got a section meant to address the economic issues in a given country, it is almost impossible to read about how economic trends affect people sharing varied economic interests.

Most of these business sections are concerned with the stock market and major investments (Croteau and Hoynes 244).According to these scholars, business news that dare cover the news concerning the working conditions, experiences and importance of the workers may be regarded as being anti-business and may lead to such news organization experiencing major economic implications.

Furthermore, self-censorship undermines the free flow of information by distorting the information contained in the advertisements (Philips et al. 23). The ultimate goal of the corporate organizations and their advertisements is to have many people consuming their products and to increase their profitability. As for the business news discussed earlier, advertisements do not take the consumer interests into consideration.

Moreover, the ideology of consumerism is encouraged through designing ads that present false promises to customers who are engaged in continuous consumption. The ads can be found almost anywhere and they are usually dependent on the act of distorting the reality in order to ensure that the goods are consumed in large quantities while the consumers derive minimal benefits from them (Croteau and Hoynes 245).

Censorship versus Self-censorship in Undermining Democracy in news media

As indicate above, ideology in the media industry entails a set of values, beliefs, and meanings that are attached to the real meaning of the world and the conditions prevailing therein. In addition, it is notable that self-censorship influences democracy in the social, capitalism, materialism and economic environments.

On the other hand, censorship plays a major role in distorting the reality and democracy under the political, nationalism and governance milieu. However, a variety of interdependencies are notable between the two concepts in that self-censorship is dependent on censorship in one way or another (Philips et al. 33).

Self censorship in the media industry can result into distortion of news content so as to serve the interests of political elites in the society; who are also the main advertisers. For instance, during campaign periods, the news media is charged with the responsibility of building the image of certain candidates while scantly covering others. In this case, censorship unlike self-censorship plays a major role in replacing the reality with mediated images.

In this case, the political elites take full control of their campaign commercials and ads besides ensuring that the images are manipulated to match the expectations of the voters while negative images are edited or scraped all together. Another important aspect of media involvement in political campaigns entails negative attacks of rival candidates through the campaign commercials. All these actions hinder the free flow of information to the voters besides influencing their voting patterns (Philips et al. 38).

Furthermore, the main objective of self-censorship is to benefit some few individuals while disregarding the interests of the majority. On the other hand, censorship, which is influenced by those in authority aims at preventing the occurrence of events perceived to be dangerous or harmful to the image of the authorities.

For the last one decade, Project Censored has uncovered a variety of stories, which had been ignored by the news media either intentionally or under the influence of those in authority. According to Philips et al. (11), a rational news media should produce real news that uncovers the vices in the society and serves to awaken the society to take note of the prevailing conditions. Additionally, the news produced should be in a position to provide checks and balances in governance and politics.

Real news should provide all citizens with the opportunity of identifying the negative implications of terrorism, wars, toxic wastes, abusive political leaders, and environmental degradation among other issues. In this way, news serves the function of fostering positive social change and activism.

This also depicts the kind of news that is people-centered and has an aim of influencing them to join hands with other individuals sharing common goals and objectives. The above functions of real news cannot be realized in the presence of censorship or self-censorship in production of news. It should be noted that real news reinforces democracy and the freedom of expression, social activism, and resistance of the influence of the top leadership and management on their subjects (Philips et al. 44).


This research paper explores the key aspects of censorship versus self-censorship in the news media. This is achieved through considering the implications of self-censorship on democracy within the news media industry. Furthermore, the varied implications of censorship and self-censorship are also considered in this paper. In the news media industry, democracy is defined as the free flow of information from one party to another.

In addition, censorship refers to the act of censoring a section or some of the media products, which are perceived to be harmful, damaging, or objectionable by the general public as provided for by the government or other regulatory authorities. On the other hand, self-censorship entails restraint of the media contents by a corporate news organization due to fear or the need to safeguard the interests of others in the society without the direct contribution of any external influence.

As indicated in the discussions above, self-censorship undermines democracy within the news media industry in a variety of ways. In most cases, this act is committed in the economic, capitalism, social, and the materialism sectors whereby its main objective is to increase the material benefits of a few individuals.

On the other hand, censorship influences democracy within the governance, political, and the nationalism environments. In addition, despite the fact that self-censorship and censorship differ in a variety of ways; interdependencies are notable particularly in the political environment whereby self-censorship is influenced by top authority.

Works Cited

Croteau, David and Hoynes, William. Media society: industries, images, and audiences. California: Pine Forge Press, 2003. Print.

Philips, Peter; Huff, Mickey and Jamail Dahr, (ed.7). Censored 2010: the Top 25 censored stories of 2008-09. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2009. Print.

Goldberg, David; Verhulst G. Stefaan and Prosser Tony. Regulating the Changing Media: A Comparative Study. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

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