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 Academic papers about the virus’s origins are now subject to prior restraint by the government. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Tom Cotton: US intelligence investigating possible Wuhan lab origin of coronavirus pandemic," 22 Apr. 2020 Any formal legal cease and desist order issued against the news media would be a prior restraint that is almost certainly unconstitutional. Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Tony Evers stands by warning journalist of prosecution over reporting," 4 Feb. 2020 But the idea that the university should impose a prior restraint by canceling the conference because of the views of its organizers and attendees is wholly inconsistent with the most basic principles of free speech and association. Samantha Harris, National Review, "An Executive Order against Antisemitism Is Being Used to Justify Censorship," 23 Jan. 2020 At professional news organizations like ProPublica and ProPublica Illinois, our regional newsroom, any form of prior review and prior restraint by anyone but our newsroom staff will get our lawyers’ attention. Vignesh Ramachandran, ProPublica, "Student Reporters Can Serve Their Communities When Administrators Aren’t in the Way," 27 June 2019 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

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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Cite this Entry

“Prior restraint.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Jul. 2020.

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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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