THE censorship in France has never been more strict than during these trying weeks of continual conflict on the Aisne. There is no newspaper which is edited with sufficient care to avoid the displeasure of the censor. Even the semi-official Temps has blank places on every page, and some of its leading articles have so many lines left out of them that the sense is completely gone. This morning the résumé of the situation in the Paris edition of the New York Herald has been entirely cut out, leaving the upper left hand corner of the first page blank.
One can understand and appreciate the reasons for the severity of the military censorship. It is a mistake to suppose that the blanks signify places where information had been printed unfavorable to the French arms. The allied armies are winning: of that we are certain. But the censor is still severe. For, though we have no news of defeat to hide, there is still the necessity of preventing the revelation to the enemy of the movements f troops.
Suppressing unfavorable news is stupid. Forbidding the publication of news that would give the slightest hint to the enemy is wise. The trouble is that the French authorities have not made a clear distinction in their policy. At times it has been dictated by the first consideration, and at others, by the second. So the people are suspicious, in spite of the fact that every straw points to a succession f victories along the whole line of battle.
There is a third form of censorship which has been exercised to some extent, and that is, suppressing the expression of political opinions. This is a very dangerous game, and yet the Government at Bordeaux has been led into the mistake of adopting it. One may rightly question the good taste of bringing up political issues at the time the enemy is invading the country, but repressive measures against the liberties f the press do not cure this feeling. On the contrary, they aggravate it.
The most striking instance of political censorship is that which has been directed against M. Clemenceau, the former Premier, who is one of the most able political leaders in France His newspaper, L’Homme Libre (The Free Man), was suspended by a decree from Bordeaux. M. Clemenceau started another paper which he called L’Homme Moins Libre (The Man Less Free). This paper in turn was suspended on the second day f publication. M. Clemenceau persisted in his effort to get his personal opinions before the public by trying a third time with L’Homme Ehchaîné (The Man in Chains). We have just heard that all the copies of this paper have been seized in the railway stations. The result is that every one in Paris wants a copy, and L’Homme Enchaîne cannot be bought for love or money !