Censorship in the United Kingdom

Censorship in the United Kingdom

Censorship in the United Kingdom has a long history with variously stringent and lax laws in place at different times, although a much more liberal approach has been taken in recent years.

George Orwell

George Orwell wrote several articles on censorship including an item titled "The Freedom of the Press" in 1943. It appears that this was a preface for his book "Animal Farm", but it is unclear if it had been deliberately suppressed or if Orwell himself chose not to publish it.

Any fairminded person with journalistic experience will admit that during this war official censorship has not been particularly irksome. We have not been subjected to the kind of totalitarian ‘co-ordination’ that it might have been reasonable to expect. The press has some justified grievances, but on the whole the Government has behaved well and has been surprisingly tolerant of minority opinions. The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary. – George Orwell [George Orwell, 1945. "The Freedom of the Press". "The Times", 1972 and "Animal Farm", Penguin 2000. " [http://orwell.ru/library/novels/Animal_Farm/english/efp_go The Freedom of the Press] ". Retrieved 19 May 2006.]

Orwell went on to suggest that because both the UK and the USSR were both members of the Allied powers at the time, this self-censorship was preventing valid criticism of the Communist regime. Orwell worked for the Ministry of Information during the war and used it as his inspiration for the Ministry of Truth in "Nineteen-Eighty-Four".

Ministry of Information

The Ministry of Information was created during the First World War and then reformed for the Second World War for propaganda purposes. In the Second World war it was located at Senate House, now the University of London Library. During the First World War it was infamous for having a staff of 999.fact|date=September 2008

The Ministry was responsible for keeping much information out of the public domain during the war years, as it was thought that this would have been harmful to the national sentiment. It also censored many press reports that were not deemed to be sufficiently patriotic, or that listed military operations to a level of detail that could be used by the enemy.

The Ministry took over the General Post Office Film Unit, renaming it the Crown Film Unit. It produced documentaries such as "Target for Tonight" (1941), "Western Approaches" (1944) and "London Can Take It!" (1940). It also created a feature length fictional film; "49th Parallel" (1941). Following this it solely created documentaries, although it also laid down propaganda guidelines for commercial films.

The Ministry was disbanded following the end of the Second World War.

Obscenity law

Obscenity law in England and Wales is currently governed by the various Obscene Publications Acts, but obscenity laws go back much further into the English common law.

The conviction in 1727 of Edmund Curll for the publication of "Venus in the Cloister or The Nun in her Smock" under the common law offence of disturbing the King's peace was the first conviction for obscenity in Great Britain, and set a legal precedent for other convictions. [" [http://www.eroticabibliophile.com/censorship_history.html The Obscenity of Censorship: A History of Indecent People and Lacivious Publications] ", The Erotica Bibliophile. Retrieved 29 May 2006.]

A defence against the charge of obscenity on the grounds of literary merit was introduced in the Obscene Publications Act 1959. The OPA was tested in the high-profile obscenity trial brought against Penguin Books for publishing "Lady Chatterley's Lover" (by D. H. Lawrence) in 1960. The book was found to have merit, and Penguin Books was found not guilty — a ruling which granted far more freedom to publish explicit material. [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/10/newsid_2965000/2965194.stm 1960: Lady Chatterley's Lover sold out] ", BBC News. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] This trial did not establish the 'merit' defence as an automatic right; several controversial books and publications were the subject of British court cases throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. "Last Exit to Brooklyn", a 1964 novel by American author Hubert Selby, Jr. was subject of a private prosecution in 1966. There is a substantial overlap between legal erotic literature and illegal pornography, with the distinction traditionally made in the English-speaking courts on the basis of perceived literary merit. Purely textual pornography has not been prosecuted since the "Inside Linda Lovelace" trial of 1976. [" [http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A679016 The Obscene Publications Act, 1857] ", BBC, 30 January 2002. Retrieved 31 May 2006.] However, in October 2008, a man was charged under the Obscene Publications Act for posting fictional written material to the Internet allegedly describing kidnap, rape and murder of pop group Girls Aloud. [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/blogger-wrote-of-murdering-girls-aloud-949711.html] In late August 2005, the government announced that it plans to criminalize possession of extreme pornographic material, rather than just publication." [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4195332.stm Ban on violent net porn planned] ", BBC News, 30 August 2005. Retrieved 19 May 2006.] Computer and video games are generally exempt from the Video Recordings Act; however, those depicting sexual content, or gross violence towards people or animals, must still be submitted to the British Board of Film Classification for consideration. Games can be banned in this way (as were "Carmageddon" in 1997 [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/21836.stm Carmageddon smashes British censor ban] ", BBC News, 4 November 1997. Retrieved 31 May 2006.] and "Manhunt 2" in 2007 [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/6767623.stm Censors ban 'brutal' video game] ", BBC News, 19 June 2007. Retrieved 19 June 2007.] ).

Almost all adult stores in the UK are forbidden from having their goods in open display under the Indecent Displays Act 1981, which means the shop fronts are often boarded up or covered in posters. A warning sign must be clearly shown at the entrance to the store, and no items can be visible from the street. No customer can be under eighteen years old. The Video Recordings Act 1984 introduced the R18-rated classification for videos that are only available in licensed sex shops, but hardcore pornographic magazines are available in newsagents in some places. The Ann Summers chain of lingerie and sex shops recently won the right to advertise for workers in job centres, which was originally banned under restrictions on what advertising could be carried out by the sex industry. [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/2999892.stm Sex toys chain wins legal fight] ", BBC News, 18 June 2003. Retrieved 31 May 2006.] [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3077411.stm Jobcentre go-ahead for Ann Summers] ", BBC News, 18 July 2003. Retrieved 31 May 2006.]

Libel law

England and Wales have relatively strict libel laws ("defamation" in Scotland) in that they are often considered pro plaintiff with the defendant asked to prove that they did not commit libel. Compensation awards for libel are also unlimited, in contrast to those for personal injury. Further controversy surrounds the libel laws with regard to costs. Libel cases are notoriously expensive to bring to court for both parties, and legal aid is not available. Fact|date=March 2007 Whilst costs can be awarded the ability to bring libel cases is often considered to be restricted to the wealthy. Conversely it is possible to initiate a "no win - no fee" case against a wealthy individual or organisation if the individual bringing the case has insignificant assets as even if the case is lost the wealthy individual or organisation are unable to recover their costs. Typically in such cases an out of court settlement is forced upon the wealthy individual or organisation.

The pro-plaintiff bias in the UK libel laws has two consequences. The first is that powerful parties in the UK and around the world use UK libel laws to attack their critics living in other countries than the UK (as for example with the US based health activist Joseph Mercola). The second is that books published in, for example, the United States are not sold in the UK by the publisher for fear of libel suits. Three examples are: ', "Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press", and '.Fact|date=March 2007

Blasphemy law

Blasphemy against Christianity was long an important part of British censorship, with the unwritten common law containing an offence of blasphemous libel. Prosecutions were rare, however, the last one being the 1977 "Gay News" legal case "Whitehouse v. Lemon". Later developments around the turn of the 21st century put the continued viability of blasphemy prosecutions in doubt. [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/3753408.stm Q & A: Blasphemy law] ", BBC News, 18 October 2004. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] The offence was definitively abolished on 8 May 2008.

Critics claim the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 could hinder freedom of speech." [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4075442.stm New effort to ban religious hate] ", BBC News, 11 June 2005. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4669714.stm Raising the bar for hatred prosecution] ", BBC News, 1 February 2006. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] Leaders of major religions and race groupsFact|date=January 2008 as well as non-religious groups such as the National Secular Society [" [http://www.secularism.org.uk/nssfreedomofspeechrally25march20.html NSS Freedom of Speech Rally 25 March 2006] ", Nation Secular Society, 25 March 2006. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] and English PEN [" [http://www.englishpen.org/aboutenglishpen/campaigns/offence/ The OFFENCE Campaign: Free Expression Is No OFFENCE] ", English PEN. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] spoke out inorder to campaign against the Bill. Comedians and satirists also fear prosecution for their work. [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4112118.stm Atkinson attacks 'draconian' law] ", BBC News, 20 June 2005. Retrieved 29 May 2006.]

Indecency "vs." obscenity

The terms "indecency" and "obscenity" are often used in the English language as if they were synonyms, or as if "obscenity" was a stronger form of "indecency". English law appears to have two contradictory legal definitions of 'obscenity', whereas 'indecency' is somewhat under-defined.

The definition of obscenity used in the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (and the Theatres Act 1968, see below) rests on an earlier common law definition of the concept, which defined obscenity as a 'tendency to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall'. ("R v Hicklin" (1868) LR 3 QB 360. s 1 of the Obscene Publications Act accordingly states that an article is to be deemed obscene if its 'effect or (where the article comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all the relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it'.

Obscenity, under this 'deprave and corrupt' test, is not limited solely to sexual material, and has, for example, been applied to material concerning drug-taking and pictures of non-sexual violence. It seems that the tendency to 'deprave and corrupt' is aimed at some kind of deviation from contemporary community moral standards (raising, of course, the issue of whether commonly shared community standards of this sort can be taken to exist). It should be noted that in practice the Obscene Publications Act 1959 is used "almost exclusively against explicit pictorial material dealing with what is generally regarded as deviant behaviour: in other words, sado-masochism, bestiality, paedophilia, bondage, etc" (R Stone, "Textbook on Civil Liberties and Human Rights" (Oxford, OUP, 2006) p374). The last time it was used to ban a prose novel for its content was "Lord Horror" by David Britton in 1991.

The other test in relation to obscenity in English law is found in statutes other than the OPA 1959 and the TA 1968 (see above). The courts have established that the meaning of the word 'obscene' (in relation to, for example, the Post Office Act 1953) should be given its dictionary meaning - covering material that is "shocking, lewd, indecent and so on". This means that under the OPA 1959 the material must tend to 'deprave and corrupt' in order to qualify as obscene, while under the alternative definition the material can be found to be obscene if it 'shocks and disgusts' the reader. (However, it should be noted that 'shock and disgust', under the OPA 1959, can provide a "defence" to an obscenity charge, because a person who is shocked and disgusted by material may be unlikely to be depraved and corrupted by it. Thus, at present, in English law, there are two contradictory definitions of the meaning of the term 'obscenity'.)

When it comes to 'indecency', this term is often used in conjunction with obscenity, but is under-defined. The word seems to mean 'shocking and disgusting' but less so than obscenity, but there has been relatively little offered in the way of definition by judges. Lord Parker, in "R v Stanley" [1965] AC 435 did attempt to differentiate between obscenity and indecency in terms of their relative seriousness on a spectrum of offensiveness to 'recognised standards of propriety'. Indecency covers 'anything which an ordinary decent man or woman would find to be shocking, disgusting, or revolting' ("Knuller v DPP" [1973] AC 435, at 458 "per" Lord Reid). Beyond this there is no real clarification of the precise meaning of 'indecency' in English law, at present.

National security

There are several Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament for the protection of official information, mainly related to national security. The latest revision is the Official Secrets Act 1989 [" [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1989/Ukpga_19890006_en_1.htm Official Secrets Act 1989 (c. 6)] , Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] (1989 chapter 6), which removed the "public interest defence" by repealing section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911. In 2004, a memo containing details of a possible US bombing of broadcaster Al Jazeera was leaked to the press. Attorney General Peter Goldsmith has warned newspapers that they could be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act if they publish the contents of the memo, saying "You are reminded that to publish the contents of a document which is known to have been unlawfully disclosed by a crown servant is in itself a breach of section 5 of the Official Secrets Act 1989". [" [http://en.thinkexist.com/quotation/the-attorney-general-s-note-said-you-are/750264.html Lord Goldsmith quotes] , ThinkExist. Retrieved 31 May 2006.] [" [http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/70736/ Media Gagged Over Al-Jazeera Memo] ", International Freedom of Expression eXchange. Retrieved 31 May 2006.] [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12956,1649351,00.html Secrecy gag prompted by fear of new Blair-Bush revelations] ", Guardian Unlimited, November 24 2005. Retrieved 31 May 2006]

The Terrorism Act 2006 makes it an offence to "glorify" terrorism. [" [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/20060011.htm Terrorism Act 2006] ", Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] There are concerns that this could limit free speech. [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4715478.stm Q&A: Terrorism laws] ", BBC News, 13 April 2006.] [" [http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/70254/ Terror law "chilling for democracy and press freedom," warns IFJ] ", International Freedom of Expression eXchange, 7 November 2005. Retrieved 31 May 2006.] ["PDFlink| [http://www.article19.org/pdfs/analysis/terrorism-submission-to-icj-panel.pdf The Impact of UK Anti-Terror Laws on Freedom of Expression] |461 KiB ", ARTICLE 19, April 2006. Retrieved 31 May 2006.]

DA-Notices are official but voluntary requests to news editors not to publish items on specified subjects, for reasons of national security. [ [http://www.dnotice.org.uk/standing_da_notices.htm Standing DA Notices] , Defence Advisory Notice system, 20 April 2005. Retrieved 29 May 2006.]

Prior restraint

Beyond obscenity law, there have been a number of organizations whose main function was to approve material prior to distribution.

Plays and theatres had long been licensed by the Crown prior to 1737. Licensure of a playhouse, however, only gave a general patent. The crown had no ability to censor before plays were performed. Under the provisions of the Theatrical Licensing Act of 1737 as extended by the Theatres Act of 1843, the Lord Chamberlain's Office was able to censor plays. This role continued until the Theatres Act 1968 abolished the practice following several cause célèbres, and a long campaign by the theatre critic Kenneth Tynan among others.

The British Board of Film Classification is the "de facto" film censor for films in Britain; [ [http://www.bbfc.co.uk/ British Board of Film Classification] , British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] since films not rated by the BBFC cannot be shown in most cinemas, or distributed as videos or DVDs, lack of BBFC approval generally makes productions of such films uneconomic.
* In the case of films shown in cinemas, local authorities have the final legal say about who can watch a particular film. Almost always local authorities accept the Board's recommendation for a certificate for a film.
* Under the Video Recording Act 1984, almost all video recordings must be classified by an authority chosen by the Home Secretary. This classification is then legally binding. Since the introduction of the Act, the BBFC has been the chosen authority. Certain works such as those that are related to sport, religion or which are designed to educate can be exempt from classification by the BBFC under the act.

The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre pre-approves most British television advertising [ [http://www.bacc.org.uk/bacc Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre] , Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] (under Ofcom rules, other broadcasters can also approve their own advertising content, but most rely on the BACC). The Advertising Standards Authority is the regulatory advertising body, but can only prevent the republication of advertisements after upholding complaints from the general public.

The advent of the Internet access has made the act of censorship more difficult, and there has been a relaxation of censorship in recognition of this. BBFC guidelines have been relaxed further to allow the limited distribution of hardcore pornography under an R18 certificate, partially because of this, and partially because of a recognition that public attitudes have changed. Further confirmation of this change in attitude was provided by the French film "Baise-moi", which was given an 18 certificate despite showing scenes of unsimulated sexual activity.

Ofcom is now the regulatory body for UK television, radio, and telecommunications services since the abolition of the Independent Television Commission. [ [http://www.ofcom.org.uk/ Ofcom] , Ofcom. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] Ofcom exerts its powers under the Communications Act 2003. The government's new requirements for Ofcom only require it to ensure adherence to "generally accepted standards" and prevention of harm, removing the former requirement to adhere to standards of "taste and decency".

"Worldwide Press Freedom Index", published by Reporters Without Borders, gave the United Kingdom a score of 5.17, making it 24th. [" [http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=554 Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2005] ", Reporters Without Borders, 2005. Retrieved 31 May 2006.]

Self-regulation of publication

A number of industries carry out what is known as self-regulation. Self-regulation seeks to keep content within the bounds of what is publicly acceptable, thus preventing government intervention to bring about official regulation. Some of the areas they are concerned about include obscenity, slander and libel. There is no clear line between self-regulation in matters of expression and self-censorship.

Industry self-regulatory bodies include the Advertising Standards Authority and the Press Complaints Commission.

Video game censorship

The introduction of controversial games featuring photo-realistic images, such as "Mortal Kombat" and "Night Trap", led to calls from the tabloid press for games to fall under the Video Recordings Act. The UK games publisher trade body ELSPA responded by introducing a voluntary age rating system in 1994. The ELSPA ratings were succeeded by the PEGI, in 2003. Nevertheless, although games are generally exempt from the Video Recordings Act, those depicting sexual content, or gross violence towards people or animals, must still be submitted to the BBFC for consideration. BBFC ratings are legally binding, and British law imposes stiff penalties on retailers who sell to under-aged customers.

"Carmageddon", in which the gameplay involved mowing down innocent pedestrians, was the first game to be refused classification in 1997, effectively banning it. The game's publisher, SCI, had a modified version created in which the pedestrians in question were replaced by green-blooded zombies, which completed a successful appeal against the BBFC to overturn their original decision. The uncensored, unmodified version of "Carmageddon" was later released under an 18-certificate.

In 2002 the Io Interactive game "" was withdrawn by a number of retailers due to religious sensitivities. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/sci_tech/newsid_2500000/2500199.stm CBBC Newsround | SCI TECH | Shops take Hitman 2 game off the shelves ] ] The area in question involved a Sikh sect that were depicted as terrorists involved in arms smuggling and assassination. It also involved a section that many Sikhs believed to closely resemble the 1984 massacre at the Amritsar temple.

In 2004, the parents of a murdered 14-year-old boy blamed "Manhunt" as having been "connected" to the murder. It was later found not to be, as the game was found in the victim's home, rather than the killer's. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/3934277.stm BBC NEWS | England | Leicestershire | Game blamed for hammer murder ] ] Leicestershire police "did not uncover any connections to the computer game." [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/3538066.stm BBC NEWS | England | Leicestershire | Police reject game link to murder ] ] The accusations prompted some retailers to remove the game from their shelves. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/3936597.stm BBC NEWS | England | Leicestershire | Manhunt game withdrawn by stores ] ] Nevertheless, following this incident the sales of the game rose due to the free publicity from newspaper headlines.The sequel, "Manhunt 2", released in 2007, was banned in the UK by the BBFC. On appeal to the Video Appeals Committee this ruling was overturned [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/6767623.stm BBC NEWS | England | Leicestershire | Censors ban 'brutal' video game ] ] however the BBFC launched a successful judicial review into the VAC's decision, forcing the VAC to reconsider its judgement. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7233408.stm BBC NEWS | Technology | On the trail of Manhunt 2 ] ] On 14th March 2008, the VAC again recommended that the game be released, a position to which the BBFC have now agreed. The game now, according to Play.com is reportedly available on 29/08/2008 on all 3 consoles and is available to pre-order.

In June 2007 the PS3 game "" was criticized for the use of Manchester cathedral as one of the games' backdrops. Sony, the publisher of the game, responded by saying "Sony Computer Entertainment Europe is aware of the concerns expressed by the Bishop of Manchester and the cathedral authorities... and we naturally take the concerns very seriously. "Resistance: Fall of Man" is a fantasy science fiction game and is not based on reality. We believe we have sought and received all permissions necessary for the creation of the game."

Internet censorship

British Telecommunications ISP passes internet traffic through a service called Cleanfeed which uses data provided by the Internet Watch Foundation to identify pages believed to contain indecent photographs of children. [" [http://www.iwf.org.uk/media/news.archive-2004.39.htm IWF/BT Project CleanFeed] ", Internet Watch Foundation. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] " [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4689386.stm How net providers stop child porn] ", BBC News, 7 February 2006. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] When such a page is found, the system creates a 'URL not found page' error rather than deliver the actual page or a warning page. Other ISPs use different systems such as WebMinder [http://www.webminder.net/] .

In 2003, after the murder of Jane Longhurst by a man who claimed to have an obsession with Internet pornography, [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/southern_counties/3455327.stm Man guilty of teacher murder] ", BBC News, 4 February 2004. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] the family of Ms. Longhurst campaigned to tighten laws regarding pornography on the Internet and have gained support such that possession may become illegal. [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/berkshire/3471441.stm MP calls for violent porn ban] ", BBC News, 9 February 2004. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] What the Government has termed "extreme pornography" could now become illegal to possess. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6237226.stm 'Extreme' porn proposals spark row] ] The government has begun to crack down on sites depicting rape, strangulation, torture and necrophilia. [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/3460855.stm UK police seek web porn crackdown] ", BBC News, 5 February 2004. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4151862.stm Crackdown due on violent web porn] ", BBC News, 15 August 2005. Retrieved 29 May 2006.]

In Scotland, 2004, a committee of Members of the Scottish Parliament has backed a call to ban adult pornography as the Equal Opportunities Committee supported a petition claiming links between porn and sexual crimes and violence against women and children. [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/3975523.stm MSPs back pornography ban calls] ", BBC News, 2 November 2004. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] A spokeswoman said "While we have no plans to legislate we will, of course, continue to monitor the situation."

The new Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker has set a deadline of the end of 2007 for all ISPs to implement a “cleanfeed”-style network level content blocking platform." [http://publicaffairs.linx.net/news/?p=497 Government sets deadline for universal network-level content blocking] ", LINX, 29 May 2006. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] [" [http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/05/18/uk_site_blocking/ Govt sets target for blocking child porn sites] ", The Register, 18 May 2006. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] Currently, the only websites ISPs are expected to block access to are sites the Internet Watch Foundation has identified as containing images of child pornography. However such a platform is capable of blocking access to any website added to the list (at least, to the extent that the implementation is effective), making it a simple matter to change this policy in future. The Home Office has previously indicated that it has considered requiring ISPs to block access to articles on the web deemed to be “glorifying terrorism”, within the meaning of the new Terrorism Act 2006, saying "However, our legislation as drafted provides the flexibility to accommodate a change in Government policy should the need ever arise." The measures have been criticised for being inadequate as they only block accidental viewing and does not prevent content delivered through encrypted systems, file sharing, email and other systems. [" [http://www.darkreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=97151 Restricting All but the Predators] ", Dark Reading, 14 June 2006. URL accessed on 24 June 2006.]

Lawyers representing the British chemical firm Tate & Lyle PLC, manufacturer of the artificial sweetener Sucralose, have used UK libel laws to compel the US-based health activist Joseph Mercola to block internet access, from the United Kingdom, to articles claiming that sucralose is harmful. Users in the UK trying to access the Sucralose article or any other page mentioning Sucralose on the Mercola web site get a message with the text: 'Attorneys acting on behalf of the manufacturers of sucralose, Tate & Lyle PLC based in London, England, have requested that the information contained on this page not be made available to Internet users in England.'

There have been concerns over the increasing amount of internet regulation and fears that the Internet may become more restricted in future, with critics drawing parallels with George Orwell's 1984. [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3797563.stm Doubts over web filtering plans] ", BBC News, Bill Thompson, 11 June 2004. Retrieved 19 May 2006.] [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/923595.stm The end of the internet?] ", BBC News, 14 September 2000. Retrieved 29 May 2006.]


During The Troubles in Northern Ireland the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 regularly stopped or postponed the broadcast of documentaries relating to Ireland. A "Real Lives" documentary for the BBC, "At the Edge of the Union" was temporararily blocked in August 1985 by direct government intervention from the then Home Secretary Leon Brittan which led to a one-day strike by the National Union of Journalists to defend the independence of the BBC.

From November 1988 to 16 September 1994, [ [http://homepages.strath.ac.uk/~his04105/news/IrishTimes-94.html "Dubbing SF voices becomes the stuff of history"] , "Irish Times", 17 September 1994, as reproduced on the Strathclyde University pages of David Miller.] a fortnight after the first Provisional Irish Republican Army ceasefire, the voices of Irish republicans and unionist paramilitaries were barred by the British government from British television and radio. This necessitated the use by broadcasters of an actor 'revoicing' the words which had been spoken by interviewees or at public meetings by the affected groups. The case of the unmade "After Dark" in 1988 with Gerry Adams is also relevant: see [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After_Dark_%28TV_series%29#Gerry_Adams] .

Occasional instances relating to Ireland still persist. An example of this would be an episode of "" titled "The High Ground" which had never been shown on UK terrestrial TV until 2006, due to its references to the resolution of the conflict in Northern Ireland (a united Ireland) and about terrorism, the episode in question has however appeared on Sky One.

Other cases

*In 1873, controversy over the depiction of William Gladstone, Robert Lowe, and Acton Smee Ayrton in W. S. Gilbert and Gilbert Arthur à Beckett's "The Happy Land" led to the play's licence being revoked by the Lord Chamberlain. A censored version of the play was eventually allowed to be performed, but uncensored scripts, with the censored portions printed in all capital letters, were printed by the theatre's manager. The play became a smash hit.Joseph S Meisel (1999), " [http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1468-229X.00109 The Importance of Being Serious: The Unexplored Connection between Gladstone and Humour] ", History 84 (274), p. 278–300. doi:10.1111/1468-229X.00109] The Illustrated London News, March 15, 1873, page 243]
*In 1922, the novel "Ulysses" by James Joyce was banned in the United Kingdom when it was declared obscene. [" [http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,6109,1145451,00.html How to read this book] ", Guardian Unlimited, 11 February 2004. Retrieved 31 May 2006.]

*In 1985, the British government attempted to ban the book "Spycatcher" by MI5 officer Peter Wright because of the sensitive material it contained. [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/13/newsid_2532000/2532583.stm 1988: Government loses Spycatcher battle] ", BBC News. Retrieved 29 May 2006.] Several British newspapers attempted to report on its principal allegations but were served with gag orders. They persisted and were tried for contempt of court, charges that were later dropped.

*In 2007/2008 It was announced that the trial of Wang Yam, accused of murdering Allan Chappelow would be held 'in camera'. This will be the first murder trial behind closed doors. The UK press have prohibited from speculating as to the reasons for this order. [cite web |title="Bid for open murder trial fails" | url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7213797.stm | date=2008-01-28 | accessdate=2008-01-29 ] [ [http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2008/269.html "Regina v. Wang Yam",] [2008] EWCA Crim. 269, United Kingdom Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, 28 January 2008]

See also

*"Areopagitica: A speech of Mr John Milton for the liberty of unlicensed printing to the Parliament of England"
*Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship
*Freedom of the Press
*International Freedom of Expression Exchange
*Mary Whitehouse
*mediawatch-uk (formerly the National Viewers and Listeners' Association)


External links

* [http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=1098 Edmund Curll and his prosecutions]
* [http://www.yourrights.org.uk/your-rights/chapters/the-right-of-free-expression/criminal-law-restrictions-on-freedom-of-expression/obscenity.shtml "Liberty" guide to the Obscene Publications Act]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/beyond/factsheets/makhist/makhist4_prog8d.shtml Theatrical Bill Inspectors and the Licensing Act of 1737]
* [http://www.escortdistrict.co.uk/sex-and-the-law.php UK laws regarding prostitution updated for 2006]
* [http://www.ofcom.org.uk/ Ofcom website]
* [http://www.ofwatch.org.uk/ OfWatch: a site critical of Ofcom]
* [http://www.melonfarmers.co.uk/ The Melon Farmers: anti-censorship website]
* [http://www.indexonline.org/ "Index on Censorship": quarterly UK publication of intelligent writing about censorship and free speech]
* (technical analysis of Cleanfeed)

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