Freedom and censorship

This hook provides an example of how government censorship during and after the First World War limited what soldiers could say and what the general public could know.

Letter from New Zealand soldier Alister Robinson to his family, May 4 1916.

Letter from New Zealand soldier Alister Robinson to his family, May 4 1916. bit.ly/1vXfTmY

Context

Most New Zealanders at home during the First World War relied on information they received from their loved ones to get a sense of what was happening on the battlefields. Government censorship during and after the First World War limited what soldiers and the general public could say and do.

For a range of reasons, individuals and groups voluntarily subjected themselves to censorship. As a result, full information about the experiences of First World War soldiers was not available to the general public at that time.

This letter illustrates how a soldier’s messages to his family were censored, giving readers an incomplete understanding of what was happening.

Possible discussion questions

  • What are some arguments for and against the censorship of personal information during times of conflict?
  • What role, if any, should censorship play in New Zealand during times of peace?
  • Why did soldiers self-censor their letters home (by not providing a full description of their experiences)?
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