1972: Nixon went to China, BBC banned McCartney and Index was published

Index on Censorship is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022. Time to find out about 16 noticeable events that took place in 1972

18 Mar 2022
The first issue of Index on Censorship magazine, in March 1972.

The first issue of Index on Censorship magazine, in March 1972.

You may have heard that the 70s were different. In 1972, when the first issue of Index magazine was launched, no one knew that 20 years later there would be an influential economic bloc called the European Union. The Beatles’ had only just split. The World Trade Center in New York was being built, while Sir Edward Heath was the prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Fifty years on and some things remain. Queen Elizabeth’s reign goes on and celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2022. Dictatorships and censorship, which should be trapped in history books, continue to torment the lives of many. And as a result, Index on Censorship remains vigilant, defending freedom of expression and giving voice to those who are silenced. 

As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we go back in time and remember the remarkable events that happened in 1972.


January 30th: British soldiers shoot 26 unarmed civilians during a protest in ​​Derry, Northern Ireland. Fourteen people were killed on this day known as “Bloody Sunday”. 


February 1st: Paul McCartney and the Wings release “Give Ireland back to the Irish” in the UK. It would be banned by the BBC, nine days later. 


February 5th: Airlines in the United States begin to inspect passengers and baggage. Tough to imagine that people traveled without any surveillance. 


February 17th: British Parliament votes to join the European Common Market. In 2020, the United Kingdom would leave the European Union. 


February 21st: Richard Nixon becomes the first US president to visit China, seeking to establish positive relations in a meeting with Chinese leader Mao Zedong, in Beijing.

Mao Zedong and Richard Nixon during Nixon’s historical visit to China in 1972. Photo: Ian Dagnall/Alamy


March 15th: The Godfather, starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, premieres in New York. It wins Best Picture and Best Actor (Brando) at the 45th Academy Awards.

Al Pacino and Marlon Brando in the Godfather. The first film of one the most successful franchises of all time was released in 1972. Photo: All Star Library/Alamy


June 18th: British European Airways Trident crashes after takeoff from Heathrow to Brussels, killing all 118 people on board. 


July 1st: Feminist magazine Ms, founded by Gloria Steinem, publishes its first issue, with Wonder Woman on the cover.


August 4th: Uganda dictator Idi Amin orders the expulsion of 50,000 Asians with British passports.


September 4th and 5th: 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team are murdered by a Palestinian terrorist group in the second week of the 1972 Olympics in Munich.


September 21st: Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos declares martial law. In 2022, his son Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos is running for president. 


October 13th: A flight from Uruguay to Chile crashes in the Andes Mountains. Passengers eat the flesh of the deceased to survive. Sixteen people are rescued two months later.


November 30th: BBC bans “Hi, Hi, Hi”, by Paul McCartney and The Wings, due to its drug references and suggestive sexual content. 


December 7th: Apollo 17 is launched and the crew takes the famous “blue marble” photo of the entire Earth.

Marble earth/Index on censorship

The earth seen from the Apollo 17 spacecraft. Photo: NASA/Alamy


December 28th: ​​Kim Il-Sung takes over as president of North Korea. He’s the grandfather of the country’s current leader, Kim Jong-un. 


December 30th: US President Richard Nixon halts bombing of North Vietnam and announces peace talks in Paris, to be held in January 1973. 

Guilherme Osinski

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