prior restraint


Definition of prior restraint

: governmental prohibition imposed on expression before the expression actually takes place

Examples of prior restraint in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web First, the requirement that certain fact checkers register with the state and post a $1 million bond is a prior restraint on speech that violates the First Amendment. Star Tribune, 20 May 2021 Although Facebook is a private entity not subject to constitutional restraints, the courts generally have held that lying may be legally permissible in many circumstances, and prior restraint of expression is anathema to a free society. Star Tribune, 7 May 2021 And so, for the first time in history, the federal government issued prior restraint injunctions to stop the presses – to prevent The New York Times and other papers from publishing any more of the Pentagon Papers. Christian Appy, The Conversation, 23 Apr. 2021 In assessing the constitutionality of a prior restraint on government employee speech, courts use a two-step analysis. Jack Greiner, The Enquirer, 17 Feb. 2021 If the prior restraint indeed inhibits speech on matters of public concern, the court then considers whether the First Amendment interests of the plaintiff and the public outweigh the government's interest in functioning efficiently. Jack Greiner, The Enquirer, 17 Feb. 2021 The Supreme Court’s ruling 17 days later allowing publication to resume has been seen as a statement that prior restraint on freedom of the press is rarely justified. New York Times, 7 Jan. 2021 Mary Trump's lawyers and lawyers for Simon & Schuster argued that blocking the book amounted to unconstitutional prior restraint, a violation of the First Amendment rights of Mary Trump and the publisher. David Jackson, USA TODAY, 8 July 2020 Academic papers about the virus’s origins are now subject to prior restraint by the government. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, 22 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prior restraint.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of prior restraint

1833, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for prior restraint

Time Traveler

The first known use of prior restraint was in 1833

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Statistics for prior restraint

Last Updated

2 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Prior restraint.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for prior restraint

prior restraint


Legal Definition of prior restraint

: governmental prohibition on expression (esp. by publication) before the expression actually takes place — see also Near v. Minnesota and New York Times Co. v. United States — compare censorship, freedom of speech

Note: In New York Times Co. v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court restated its position that “any system of prior restraints” bears “a heavy presumption against constitutional validity” and that the government “carries a heavy burden of showing justification for the imposition of such a restraint.”


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