The banning or restriction of printed materials before they are published.
Reacting to an environment in Great Britain in which both church and state exercised frequent prior restraints, the framers of the U.S. Bill of Rights gave freedom of the press a prominent place in the First Amendment.
The first Court case on prior restraint was Near v. Minnesota
As the impact of broadcast media increased in the twentieth century, freedoms originally applied to the press were extended to cover radio and television. Included in this coverage was the guarantee that broadcast licenses are granted on politically neutral grounds and that the so-called “fairness doctrine” ensures those with opposing viewpoints are given air time to respond to editorials. Eventually computer-based communications were also covered. In Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union
Freedom to publish does not protect the publisher from subsequent sanctions and prosecution. Some successful postpublication libel suits resulted in restrictions on the publication of further materials, and a number of trial verdicts were overturned as a result of pretrial publicity. The Court, however, maintained that prior restraint represents a greater danger than these results. Restrictions on prior restraint apply only to those forms of speech protected under the First Amendment. Prior restraint has therefore been deemed permissible in cases involving obscenity, severe risk to national security, the advocating of certain illegal acts, and invasions of personal privacy.
Biskupic, Joan, and Elder Witt. The Supreme Court and Individual Rights. 3d ed. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1997. Cushman, Robert Fairchild, with Susan Koniak. Cases in Civil Liberties. 6th ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1994.
First Amendment balancing
Near v. Minnesota
Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart
New York Times Co. v. United States
Pretrial publicity and gag rule
Speech and press, freedom of