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Censorship of music is vast and widespread, with multiple reasons, a mixture of agents and a variety of factors by which it is practiced. To figure out its principled justification I first find a functioning definition; then I layout given and implicit causes for censorship and some conventional means by which this is accomplished. I investigate examples from across this matter, giving a slight but comprehensive overview of the subject’s basis and validity including educational contexts and cases of non-state-based censorship. I complete this essay by saying that censorship is a persistent issue—its alterations must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis—and acknowledge an attitude of societal progress that denigrate endeavors to preserve values by force.
Conclusively I agree with the UN Special Rapporteur on the freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye (2016), in stating that “censorship in all its forms reflects official fear of ideas and information… it not only harms the speaker or reporter or broadcaster, it undermines everyone’s right to information, to public participation, to open and democratic governance.”
Reichman (2001) defines censorship as the “the removal, suppression, or restricted circulation of literary, artistic or educational materials on the grounds that these are morally or otherwise objectionable…”
For the aim of this essay I define music censorship as any attempt to prevent, for ethical reasons, any music from being accessed, purchased, performed, aired or discussed.
Certain kinds of values are frequently cited in modern cases of censorship. Most commonly, the desire to protect order and morals; this includes attempts to suppress influences of gambling, violence, hedonism, religious non-observance and sedition. Countering ‘hate-speech’ also falls under this rubric. A second concern is “healthy development of youth” (Allen, 2015), with protection “from the tension of premature adulthood” (Wynne, 1985). Thirdly, in some cases censorship is involved in the protection of national or minority industries or traditions and regarding intellectual property. Finally an occasional rationale is that of enhancing artistic or cultural achievement by removing inferior forms of art.
In its classic form censorship of music is an official state process involving criminalization of sale, broadcast and performance. This can be manifested in degrees of popularity and I compare examples in the PRC, Belarus and the UK. It may also have degrees of officiality and transparency, with correspondingly various effects—as we see in the case of Belarus. I briefly turn to the question of education as censorship and discuss whether censorship can be justified or avoided in this case.
Non-state actors, either propagandists or organizations, either violent or non-violent, can also perform censorship. I give examples of violence in the intimidation and murder of musicians by religious militia in Pakistan and the Nigerian state of Kano. Non-violent, non-state action is exemplified by the contemporary issues surrounding online platforms, with YouTube, Facebook and Google all involved in censorship controversy. Later I mention what may be the most pervasive but least considered form of censorship: taboo.
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