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Censorship Guidelines I (1914)

Information was of the utmost strategic importance during the First World War. Here, the German government outlines its reasons for press censorship. This memorandum stresses the importance of withholding critical information about military movements from enemy forces.

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In connection with the decree that the Chancellor has issued on the “Prohibition of Publications about Troop Movements and Measures for Defense,” in this critical time the military leadership turns to the press, the medium whose words are being carried far beyond Germany’s borders.

The history of recent wars is rich in examples of how easily the deployment of a country’s forces can be betrayed to the enemy by inadvertent reports, and how the course of a war can in this way be given a ruinous turn. Even German newspapers have unknowingly passed many an important piece of information on to our enemies during our own recent great struggles.

The danger of harming the Fatherland through published information has grown in most recent times with the perfection of news transmission.

More than ever, we are being watched by our political adversaries; every careless publication is being transmitted to them with lightning speed in thousands of ways. Even reports that appear harmless often suffice to give the enemy an accurate picture of our military situation. If we wish to secure ourselves favorable prospects for a war, our military measures must be kept secret from the enemy as well as from our own country.

To be sure, uncertainty and doubt are doubly difficult to bear at this time, but the welfare of the Fatherland demands that we make the sacrifice of strict discretion in all questions that pertain in any way to the German army and navy, or to the military forces of our allies. Publications that pertain to military events in all other countries must also be suppressed until the political situation is clarified, since we do not know what attitude these countries will adopt towards us. As soon as this clarification has taken place, the press will be informed.

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