Liberty of Faith and Conscience

Communication – From Censorship to Crisis


[Parliament of Romania]

[„Politehnica” University of Timisoara]


The paper describes the evolution and the role of communication in human society, examining forms of censorship applied over time, and the types of crises that affect communication in modern society. In particular, this paper describes cases of censorship by the exercise of political power, especially in totalitarian regimes. Victims of censorship are people, books, other publications, media etc. Conclusion of the paper is that censorship of communication is one of the main obstacles in development of the human society.

Keywords: Communication, news, pattern, censorship, totalitarianism, religious and secular institutions, freedom

1. Introduction

Human society could not be conceived in the absence of communication, in today’s society communication acquired a central role, both by theoretical concerns that directly refer to communication, as well as the object of research and by overcoming the role played until recently by communication sciences, that of annex in the context of human sciences1.

The progress of human society was determined and it also imposed a growing information capacity which, combined with community work, raised to ever higher rates of the communication need. Are assumption is correct when we say that human evolution is primarily communication.

Freedom is an essential element in deriving other rights and freedoms, and also the logical consequence of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, subject of the European Convention on Human Rights.

2. History of communication2

The primitive elementary form of human communication was a public indication of a fact: a notch on a tree trunk, a colored stone on a path etc. In the same way it is a public indication of optical signals: smoke during the day, fire at night, coupled with the signals made by the monasteries and churches bells.

Communication is part of our lives, it is essential for our life and work. Derived from the Latin „comunis” – common – means „to agree with”, „to be in contact,” although the term in ancient vocabulary mean „to transmit to others”. Communication means a simple fact: practicing it, a man tries to establish communication with other people, by disseminating information, ideas and attitudes.

In practices related to communication, the appearance of writing was truly an essential moment for human evolution, making the invention of graphic signs, storing and transmitting information possible, not only in time scale but also horizontally within the community and especially between communities. In ancient Egypt, for example, there were chronics which by their content, resemble to newsletters of today, and in China, in the second century BC, in the Han Dynasty period, there was a regular newsletter „Ti Bap”, for officials’ information.3,4

News was gathered and began to be recorded in books or journals. The next step was the appearance of gazette-manuscript. Italy was the first country that had a newspaper, determined by needs felt first of all by the merchants.  Initially, manuscripts were intended mainly for kings and princes, later for politicians or business, and finally for the bourgeoisie. The Golden age of the newspaper-manuscript was the sixteenth century, in Rome and Venice.5

A pattern with movable letters marked another fundamental step in disseminating information, books and papers reproduced by printing became very cheap and more easily to spread. The pattern with movable letters was invented in China, the first mobile hieroglyphs being made in the eleventh century. Innovation was exceptional and revealed later by a Chinese chronicler who wrote in 1422: „Each text should be printed and no man should remain ignorant.”6

For Europe, the time reference in the evolution of printing technology is placed between the years 1438-1450, when Johann Genfleisch, known as Gutenberg (1394 or 1399-1468), gave rise to the pattern based on isolated metal letters, movable, cast in molds. Art of printing, in conjunction with the invention of ink and develop of paper industry and of postal institution, determined the birth of the printed press. As an inexhaustible source of news from different fields, the press has intensified communication and public opinion was guided into one way or another. The press has become, gradually, in the modern world, „the fourth power in the state.”

In Romanian culture, the pattern was assimilated just 60 years after its appearance in Europe and 17 years after the printing of the first Cyrillic books.

The introduction of printing in Romanian culture is related to the name of Macarie, and of Radu cel Mare, Romanian prince (1496-1508). Early 16th century, three books with religious themes were published: Liturghierul(1508), Octoihul (1510) and Evangheliarul (1512), all in slavonic.7

The first document written in Romanian was registered in 1521 – the famous letter of Neacşu from Campulung. Only a few decades later in Romania, there was an intense publishing activity, held between 1559 and 1583, in a printing shop owned by deacon Coresi. Other printers worked in Cluj (1550), Alba Iulia (1561), Bucharest (1573, 1675), let (1640), Snagov (1690), Buzau (1694).8

3. History of censorship

Censorship is the „act of any political, religious, military or administrative entity to condition the expression/distribution of information, opinions, ideas, intellectual creations, which the public has a right to know.”9 Attribute of a religious, political or military power, censorship seems to have occurred even before it got a name, together with the first forms of written expression, as attested in biblical texts – the first record regarding this is brought by the New Testament.

As the crystallization of the first forms of state, censorship has become as much an attribute of the church and of secular institutions. For example, all actions against different forms of expression that put in doubt dogmas and, later on, political or military decisions of State Power.10

The first representative of ecclesiastical authority that has developed an effective system of censorship was Rodrigo Borgia, the future Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503). In 1501, he imposed the obligation not to print any book without prior approval of a senior prelate.11

The first forms of censorship have been by religious inspiration and until the appearance of secular censorship, the control of writing and teaching was the privilege of theologians.12 Restrictions on religious institutions were transferred in different forms in secular institutions, primarily in universities, by imposing a point of view to ensure the purity of faith was an obsession for which they made the most severe punishment.13

In the Slavic area, the first forms of censorship arose due to interventions of religious authorities, especially after the Grand Duke Vladimir strengthened central state authority and introduced Christianity as official religion (982).14

The territories inhabited by Romanians, as in all European space, the censorship was created by church. In the Romanian provinces, even the circulation of foreign newspapers was often stopped because of censorship, despite the fact that customers were important landowners.

By the measures mentioned, Walachia and Moldavia came among countries where free speech depends exclusively by the political power.

4. Censorship of communication

Modern forms of censorship keep in different proportions, specific mechanisms of old forms, but are usually more discrete. Restricting access to information is a common practice and occurs through excessive classification of information as secret, through their inequitable dissemination or by preventing access to them.

Hitler and Lenin saw media as a powerful means of control. They limited exchange of information and violently repressed any form of resistance.15

In totalitarian societies, all forms of public expression are marked by official ideology, by the restrictions and by fear of repression. Through censorship, the unique value of news is given on whether it serves the single party or not.16 Hiding the events, the dependence on a single news agency (which is under the control of the single party) and deprivation of alternative sources of information are some of the communist models of communication components.17

Representative in this media system in Romania were the last years of Com­mu­nism, in which communication had acquired a ritual character, somehow religious. Throughout history, censorship has made communication a real victim, both among books, publications and the people. „The danger to kill a good book is as great as that of killing a man,” said John Milton.18

5. Conclusions

Freedom of communication is a fundamental feature of the definition of man.

Freedom of communication applies not only to „information” or „ideas” that are favorably received, but also those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any other segment of the population.

Experts who have analyzed the phenomenon of communication admit that it seeks some specific features: communication has the role to put people in touch with each other, the message content pursues certain goals and the transmission of certain meanings, the communication has a dynamic character, because any communication, once started, has a evolution, it change and changes the people involved in the process etc.19


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1 JJ van Cuilenburg, Scholten & GW A Noomen, Ştiinţa comunicării (Editura Humanitas, Bucureşti, 2004), 5.
2 Ligia Bârzu, Preistorie generală (Bucureşti, 2001), 49.
3 Constantine Antipas, Istoria presei române (Acad. Stefan Gheorghiu , Bucureşti, 1979), 10.
4 Victor Visinescu, O istorie a presei româneşti (Ed Victor, Bucureşti, 2000), 16.
5 Emanoil Cretzulescu, Originea presei. Presa în străinătate şi în România (Bucureşti, 1887), 5-6.
6 Albert Flacon, Universul cărţilor (Editura Ştiinţifică şi Enciclopedică, Bucureşti, 1975), 56.
7 George Ionescu, Spicuiri din trecutul tipografiei româneşti (Bucureşti, 1909), 39-40.
8 Radu Albala, Antim Ivireanul şi vremea lui (Editura Tineretului, Bucureşti, 1962), p. 83.
9 JJ van Cuilenburg , Scholten & GW A Noomen, Ştiinţa comunicării.
10 Ovidiu Drâmba, Istoria culturii şi civilizaţiei (Editura Ştiinţifică, Bucureşti, 1995).
11 I.M. de Bujande, La censure littéraire en Europe en XVI e siècle (Canadian Journal of History, 1992), 1-15.
12 Antonia Fraser, Cromwell (Editura Ştiinţifică, Bucureşti, 1982).
13 Bartolome Bennesor, Inchiziţia spaniolă. Sec. XV-XIX (Politics Publishing House, Bucharest, 1983).
14 Balsoia Sovietscaia Enciclopedia (vol 46, Moscow, 1957).
15 V.I. Lenin, Despre presă (Editura Politică, Bucureşti, 1960).
16 Rupnik J., L’autre Europe. Crise et fin du communisme (Editura Odile Jacob, Paris, 1990), 287.
17 Paul Lendvai, Les fonctionnaires de la vérité. L’ information dans les pays de l’ Est (Robert Laffert Publishing, Paris, 1980), 22.
18 Peter Solomon, John Milton (Editura Tineretului, Bucureşti, 1962).
19 Vasile Tran, Irina Stănciugelu, Teoria comunicării (Editura SNSPA, Facultatea de Comunicare şi Relaţii Publice, Bucureşti, 2003), 14-15.


IOANA FLORINA MÎNZUParliamentary Expert at the Committee for Education, Science, Youth and Sport from Chamber of Deputies, Parliament of Romania. She also collaborated with the National Agency for Qualifications in Higher Education and Partnership with the Economic and Social Environment (ACPART). She graduated Faculty of Political Science at National School of Political Studies and Public Administration (NSPAS) and she has a Master's degree in Communication and Public Relations. Now she is at the doctoral school in Political Science at NSPAS.

PETRU ANDEA – Prof. univ. dr. eng., dean of Faculty of Electrical and Power Engineering, „Politehnica” University of Timisoara. He is also member of the Academy of Romanian Scientists and President of the Timisoara Branch. He was member of the Romanian Parliament, in the Committee for Education, Science, Youth and Sport, from 2000-2008. His activity is reflected by more than 20 books, 101 scientific papers, 26 inventions and 26 innovations.




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