"The gag again" : J.T. Paul and press censorship during World War Two
Gray, Earl Cameron
INTRODUCTION: Because of the strength of Western democratic traditions censorship of any kind is a controversial issue. During a war belligerent nations extend the aegis of censorship beyond pornography and violence to matters likely to effect the national war effort. This extension often includes the censorship of matters calculated to, or likely to, divide the national will. Censorhsip thus becomes more subjective in its operation, which increases the controversy surrounding it, especially when its supervision is entrusted to one man. New Zealand's experience during World War Two is an example of this. During World War II New Zealand censorship covered mail, books, radio and newspapers. The last of these is the subject of this dissertation. Censorship of newspaper reporting raises important questions. The big issue is whether or not democracy, to which freedom of the press is considered essential, would take precedence over national security even in war time. Are newspapers a totally independent and objective medium at any time? If not, does this detract from the importance of 'the freedom of the press' as a democratic ideal? Censorship in New Zealand, including press censorship, is covered in varying detail by chapter 19 of Nancy Taylor's official history of The Home Front, chapter two of Alistair Logan's dissertation entitled ''The Public Safety Conservation Act", and in F.L.W. Wood's The New Zealand People at War. The publication of Taylor's book during 1986 caused some drastic reconsideration of the material to be covered in this dissertation. The presence of the papers of J.T. Paul, the Director of Publicity during the War, in the Hocken Library was very valuable. All the studies of censorship concentrate on the negative issues of what was censored and the problems encountered by those administering censorship. "The historian reads ... of the Director of Publicity's difficulties, rather than of his successes". My dissertation also has this limitation. However, I have attempted to keep the question of press censorship in proportion by attending to some basic factors. Firstly, by far the greatest proportion of the censor's activities dealt with the daily newspapers, and this was the area which concerned and interested him the most. Criticism of his censorship must be tempered by the fact that only two prosecutions were brought against daily newspapers for breaches of censorship during the war. This has been obscured in other commentaries by the fact that censorship was brought to bear most noticeably and effectively on factional periodicals. Secondly, censorship affected newspaper editors directly. Thus, any issue involving censorship received exaggerated coverage in the press. An editorial naturally followed because it gave the editors a chance to proselytise on a topic near to the heart. This exaggeration has been continued to an extent by subsequent commentators. However, I have made no direct attempt to assess the importance of the issue of press censorship in the public mind. It is enough to say that it was one of thousands of concerns during war-time. Some members of the public were probably not even aware it existed and, therefore, its relative importance was minor. The first chapter gives an account of press censorship during World War Two. It is not intended as a detailed narrative, which may be found elsewhere. Instead, I point out the major issues which arose and attempt to illustrate the attitudes of the participants in these. The account is centered on the activities and opinions of J.T. Paul. In pursuing this emphasis, it must be remembered that censorship was not wholly in his hands. According to the Regulations he was responsible to a Board under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. This Board did not meet regularly. In fact in most cases Paul reported to and acted on the advice of the Prime Minister, the Armed Services or British Admiralty. Chapters two and three provide two case studies of the working of press censorship. Chapter Two covers the censorship of the problems arising from the furlough drafts. This has been given scant coverage in commentaries on the censorship, perhaps because it is an example of the censorship working without any major problems. Nothing illustrates a person's attitudes better than his reaction to crises. The major public crisis for Paul's administration was the prosecution brought against the editor of the Manawatu Times, Robert Billens. This is the subject of chapter three. My major concern is Paul's reaction to its development and its effect upon his views. Paul's basic philosophy was not altered, but the case climaxed a discernible hardening of his approach to the censorship. This is not an attempt at a biography of Paul during the war years. It is an attempt to narrate and analyse his activities in the public sphere over which he had the most influence.
Degree Name: Bachelor of Arts with Honours
Degree Discipline: History
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Dissertation
100 leaves :ill. ; 30 cm. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 97-100).