A narrow definition of censorship focuses on government control of news. This definition has contemporary relevance, but it is insufficient because modern news censorship often takes other forms. As Project Censored has argued since its beginning in 1976, a broader definition of censorship is necessary to understand US news media.
We define “modern censorship” to include the subtle yet constant and sophisticated manipulation of reality by news media. This includes not only the exclusion of newsworthy stories and topics from coverage, but also the manipulation of coverage based on political pressure (from government officials and powerful individuals), economic pressure (from corporate entities, advertisers, and funders), and legal pressure (e.g., the threat of lawsuits from deep-pocket individuals, corporations, and institutions). Thus, censorship is not limited to overt, intentional omission, but also includes anything that interferes with the free flow of information in a society that purports to have a free press system. In this wider view, censorship is best understood as a specific form of propaganda—deceptive communication intended to influence public opinion in order to benefit a special interest. (This definition draws from Censored 2013: Dispatches from the Media Revolution; see p. 30.)
Project Censored exposes and opposes censorship, championing the rights to freedom of opinion and expression articulated in the First Amendment of the US Constitution and Article 19 of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Specifically, since 1976, Project Censored has systemically documented more than one-thousand important news stories, as covered by independent journalists and news outlets, that corporate news media have either ignored entirely or covered in only partial (i.e., limited and/or biased) terms.
The purpose of this “ongoing empirical investigation of the corporate news media’s blind spots and lacunae, its third rails and ‘no go’ zones” (see Censored 2018, p. 33) is to draw wider public attention to these important but under-reported stories, to document how corporate news media often limit the scope of political debate, and to bolster public support for truly independent journalism.
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All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.
—George Bernard Shaw, “The Author’s Apology” (1902) to Mrs. Warren’s Profession (1894)