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

Courts have -- have exercised prior restraint to stop people from publishing troop movements in the time of war. Fox News, "John Bolton on Maduro 'assassination' attempt, Russian election meddling," 5 Aug. 2018 Dan Laidman, who represented the Times and AP, argued that higher courts have struck down prior restraint orders limiting coverage of criminal proceedings. Christopher Weber, Fox News, "Judge reverses order barring court photos of murder suspect," 27 Sep. 2018 In the United States, the Supreme Court has generally rejected the concept of prior restraint. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "3D-printed (and CNC-milled) guns: Nine questions you were too afraid to ask," 5 Aug. 2018 Wilson has maintained that this is a First Amendment case, claiming that the government’s attempts to block the publication of the information on the web amounts to prior restraint barred by Supreme Court precedent. Agueda Pacheco-flores, The Seattle Times, "Federal judge in Seattle blocks release of blueprints for 3D-printed guns," 31 July 2018 Faculty members, student groups and a campus minister sued the regents in federal court, alleging prior restraint under the First Amendment. Anne Ryman, azcentral, "Maricopa colleges get complaints over showing 'The Last Temptation of Christ' in class," 7 June 2018 In the years since, the Internet has made it all but impossible for democratic governments to directly censor the press; prior restraint is now hard to pull off, even for an autocrat. Bruce D. Brown, Time, "America Is No Longer the Standard Bearer for a Free Press," 5 Feb. 2018 Absent a finding of libel, forcing a retraction would constitute prior restraint. Brian Chasnoff, San Antonio Express-News, "Why you can’t penalize all the ‘liars’," 2 May 2018 There is no legal rationale for such prior restraint. Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, "What Went Wrong in the Stormy Daniels Case," 17 Mar. 2018

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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prior restraint

prior to



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Time Traveler for prior restraint

The first known use of prior restraint was in 1833

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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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characterized by aphorism

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