Council of People’s Commissars, Decree on the Press. November 9, 1917
In the trying critical period of the revolution and the days that immediately followed it the Provisional Revolutionary Committee was compelled to take a number of measures against the counter-revolutionary press of different shades.
Immediately outcries were heard from all sides that the new, socialist power had violated a fundamental principle of its programme by encroaching upon the freedom of the press.
The Workers’ and Peasants’ Government calls the attention of the population to the fact that what this liberal facade actually conceals is freedom for the propertied classes, having taken hold of the lion’s share of the entire press, to poison, unhindered, the minds and obscure the consciousness of the masses.
Every one knows that the bourgeois press is one of the most powerful weapons of the bourgeoisie. Especially at the crucial moment when the new power, the power of workers and peasants, is only affirming itself, it was impossible to leave this weapon wholly in the hands of the enemy, for in such moments it is no less dangerous than bombs and machine-guns. That is why temporary extraordinary measures were taken to stem the torrent of filth and slander in which the yellow and green press would be only too glad to drown the recent victory of the people.
As soon as the new order becomes consolidated, all administrative pressure on the press will be terminated and it will be granted complete freedom within the bounds of legal responsibility, in keeping with a law that will be broadest and most progressive in this respect.
However, being aware that a restriction of the press, even at critical moments, is permissible only within the limits of what is absolutely necessary, the Council of People’s Commissars resolves:
General Provisions on the Press
1. Only those publications can be suppressed which:
(1) call for open resistance or insubordination to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government;
(2) sow sedition through demonstrably slanderous distortion of facts;
(3) instigate actions of an obviously criminal, i.e. criminally punishable, nature.
2. Publications can be proscribed, temporarily or permanently, only by decision of the Council of People’s Commissars.
3. The present ordinance is of a temporary nature and will be repealed by a special decree as soon as normal conditions of social life set in.
Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, Vladimir Ulianov (Lenin)
Petrograd, October 27, 1917.
Source: Decrees of the Soviet Government (Moscow: Institute of Marxism-Leninism, 1957), Vol. I, pp. 24-25.