Censorship by Another Name

The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America recognizes five rights; those being the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, right of assembly & the right to petition for redress of grievances. It is generally accepted that the “freedom of the press” is a prohibition on government censorship. However, on several occasions the Congress has passed laws infringing on the right to publish ideas.

The Sedition Act (passed in 1798 as part of the Alien & Sedition Acts) made it a crime to publish “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” critical of Congress and/or of the President, but criticism of the Vice-President was not crime. The Sedition Act had an expiration date of March 3, 1801 (the day before Adams’ presidential term was to end).
The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, which amended it, imposed restrictions on the free press during wartime. It carried fines of $10,000 and up to 20 years imprisonment for people publishing “… disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States …”

Now, in yet another case censorship by another name, the Washington Post reports,

“The Defense Department is attempting to buy the entire first printing – 10,000 copies – of a memoir by a controversial former Defense Intelligence Agency officer so that the book can be destroyed, according to military and other sources.

“Operation Dark Heart,” which was scheduled to be published this month by St. Martin’s Press, recounts the adventures and frustrations of an Army reservist, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, who served in Afghanistan in 2003, a moment when the attention of Washington and the military had shifted to Iraq.“

Somehow, this isn’t censorship, right? Not in “the land of the free”?!?

While the United States of America is still considered “free” by Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders, there are a few countries that are ranked higher on lists ranking “freedom of the press.” However, with the creation of ”free speech zones” and efforts to hinder and prevent alternative media from covering news stories ignored by the “mainstream”, the guaranteed rights to free speech and a free press are slowly eroding.