Content of the Database

Beacon contains nearly 50,000 references for censored books and newspapers, as well as literature on censorship and freedom of expression. The goal of the database is to document historic & current censorship in a global perspective. Although extensive, this reference tool is hardly complete. Beacon welcomes new partners with access to information on documented cases of censorship and other relevant literature on censorship and freedom of expression.

What is registered in the database?

  • Recently censored books and newspapers, broadcasts and internet sites
  • Censored books and newspapers from selected historical periods and historic cases
  • International literature on censorship and freedom of expression


What are the criteria for inclusion in the database?

The books, newspapers, radio/television broadcasts & websites registered in the Beacon database have been censored:

  • On moral, religious or political grounds
  • By a state, governing authority or state-related body

Censored books and media in a global perspective

The censored titles in the database comprise more than 40 languages. Many of the books have long been out of print but may still be obtainable, particularly through national libraries. For the convenience of users, the source and place of access for each item is cited. There are references to drama, radio, television, the internet, libraries and the press. The entries are also representative of different historical periods and countries, and address moral, political and religious aspects of censorship. In addition to scholarly literature, this database references various national government white papers on censorship legislation, as well as reports and documents from the UN Human Rights Committee.

Censorship of books and newspapers worldwide during the last decade

Independent freedom of expression organisations have expertly managed the daily global monitoring and documentation of censorship and other threats to freedom of expression for half a century. International PEN, established already in 1921, represents the oldest of such organisations. The excellent monitoring may be attributed to the engagement of freedom of expression, press, and authors' organisations in the ongoing struggle against media censorship.

International Freedom of Expression eXchange Clearing House (IFEX), established in 1992, is a network of some of the world's leading freedom of expression organisations. IFEX manages a daily electronic service of alerts. Member organisations report threats to freedom of expression and IFEX consolidates the reports, disseminating them to their large network, which includes the Beacon database. The content of the alerts range from reported violence, torture and murder targeting journalists, authors and others to the banning of books, newspapers, and broadcasts. The alerts may also include information about the introduction of new media-laws and the blocking of internet sites. The IFEX reports naturally represent an invaluable source for the Beacon database, however only the banned and prohibited newspapers, books, broadcasts and internet sites are included in the database.


Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1564)Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1564)

Censorship of books and newspapers from selected historical periods and countries

Most of the nearly 50,0000 items in the database are historical cases of censorship. They represent historic periods of censorship in specific countries and regions. The Roman Inquisition's lists Index Librorum Prohibitorum, first issued in 1559, are regarded as the earliest systematically kept records of prohibited literature. The last of the 20 voluminous lists was published in 1948 and was suppressed as recently as 1966. These lists are exceptional, inasmuch as comprehensive data on censored items in a global perspective before the 19th century are very rare. Consequently it is unlikely that records of pre-19th century censored items can ever be comprehensive.

Publications on censorship and freedom of expression worldwide

Literature on censorship and freedom of expression constitutes an invaluable body of knowledge. Thus Beacon's database of censorship literature also represents an essential reference tool, made possible thanks to the excellence of the international sources, in particular national and university libraries.