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Exposing and exposing censorship: Backfire dynamics in freedom-of-speech struggles

Volume 10, Issue 1

April, 2004

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Jansen, S. C., and Martin, B. (2004). Exposing and exposing censorship: Backfire dynamics in freedom-of-speech struggles. Pacific Journalism Review, 10(1): 29-45.
Spin and censorship
Author(s): Sue Curry Jansen, Brian Martin
Publication date: 
April, 2004

Censorship can backfire because it is usually viewed as a violation of the right to free expression, which is widely valued as an ideal; under the Charter of the United Nations, freedom of expression is a universal human right. Backfire occurs, for example, when censorious attacks on a film or book cultivate increased demand for the forbidden work rather than restrict access to it. Censors can inhibit this backfire effect in various ways, including covering up the censorship, devaluing the target, reinterpreting the action, using official channels, and using intimidation and bribery. These five methods to inhibit backfire from attacks on free speech are illustrated by a variety of cases, including attacks that backfired and ones that did not. This analysis provides guidance for effectively opposing attacks on free expression.