Breaking Liberty

September 29, 1951 — The Owosso Argus-Press

The Mossadegh Project | June 21, 2017                   

U.S. President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)

President Truman’s censorship order was the subject of this lead editorial in a Michigan newspaper.

Harry Truman editorial archive
Harry Truman letters, speeches, etc.

Truman’s Censorship Order
Can Be Menace to Freedom

President Truman has proclaimed a so-called security censorship over the divulging of news from all government departments in Washington. Never in the history of this nation has any administration proposed such an extensive control of news sources as can be included under the President’s edict. This order covers the opening of news sources for publication in any of the civilian departments of the government.

Under this order the department heads or those in the department responsible for the release of news can restrict any news item of their department, which in their opinion conflicts with national safety. The President says the restriction will amount to a greater flow of news to the public. But how he figures that one is beyond the thinking of most people having anything to do with the dissemination of news to the public.

On the other hand the possibility of censorship over Washington news is almost unlimited. It sounds rather harmless to order department heads to restrict the giving out of news, which might be dangerous to the national safety. But this is the first time such censorship has been placed in the hands of the government department heads. All during the last war there was no such restrictions. The news censorship was voluntary, but it was so carried out that there were very few instances of any question as to the type of news published.

Now there can be as many interpretations of what this order covers as there are government department officials responsible for the release of news. Not many of these officials are versed in what should and should not be given out for publication. At first the reaction of many of these officials will naturally be to be very careful what they do release. They will lean backwards to make sure they are in keeping with the security ruling of the President.

What is going to be the ruling in regard to security. Just how far will the scope of security censorship go. There is much potential danger to the right of a people living under a democracy to receive all the information they are entitled to. One of the foundations of a democracy is an informed citizenry. There is grave danger of the stifling of essential information under this restrictive order.

There is danger that some officials will construe the order as giving them the right to shut off information from their department, which might be critical to the administration. The flare-up over the OPS [Office of Price Stabilization] is only an example. It is not far fetched for some zealous official to rule that any criticism of the administration is harmful to the national safety. That is the interpretation given to the censorship bars in less democratic countries. We are supposed to be fighting for the cause of personal liberty and yet there is danger that some of our liberty will be endangered here.

Truman and Mossadegh’s First Messages on Iran Oil Dispute (1951)
President Truman and Premier Mossadegh's First Messages on Iran Oil Dispute (1951)


Related links:

Dizzy Performance | The New London Day, October 6, 1951

Just What Statements Are Lies? | The Spokane Daily Chronicle, August 1, 1951

Motives And Dangers | The Troy Record, October 9, 1951

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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