Trying to understand the rhyme and reason to censorship
Censorship and freedom of speech are constantly at odds, which can be both perplexing and frustrating for individuals.
Free expression is one of the most important individual liberties one can have. It can seem so easy for one to say, write, or otherwise other outlets to convey an idea. However, it is this single action that constantly has citizens coming into conflict with their governments. All around the world, people are either punished for what they write or say, or they are deterred from expressing how they truly feel because of various ruling parties.
Those in power use a variety of different reasons to justify their acts of censorship. Libel, threats to national security and even espionage can all be reasons for the government to prohibit the dissemination of content. Sometimes, even citizens will participate in these actions. Parents who believe certain books should be banned from schools, for instance, indicate that censorship practices are not solely reserved for those in power.
Searching for consistency
In Lebanon, censorship can be quite perplexing. The Global Post reported that some seemingly unoffensive works have been banned by the government. This includes Frank Sinatra due to "Zionist tendencies" and John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men."
The news source consulted with a Lebanon-based nonprofit, March, which aims to document censorship policies in the country. According to the organization, the kind of content that qualifies for government limitations is both vague and broad. Works that are offensive to the public, push anti-Lebanon propaganda, disrespect morals and good ethics and expose the state to danger are all considered prohibited material.
This means that basically anything can be subject to censorship – and in practice this is certainly the case.
March documents the banned content in its Virtual Museum of Censorship. There are numerous forms of expression on the website, some more peculiar than others. One of the more surprising ones is a 2009 DVD entitled, "The New Adventures of Pipi Longstocking." It is banned under the pretense of "General Security," with the website explaining that the music composer for the film is on the boycott list.
While Lebanon is an extreme case, it sheds light on the nature of censorship. Though the overarching justifications for it can seen reasonable, like protecting national security, in practice, censorship seems to have other justifications and seem to be more based in gut reactions. Those who wish to limit the dissemination of certain content need to understand the basis for why they do so. Simply because one might not agree with a particularly idea or work, does not mean its grounds to limit others from seeing it or producing it.