Banned books and other forms of censorship

On the banning of books, censorship and other freedom of access issues

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Banned books week

September 23-30 is Banned Books Week, a time to celebrate our intellectual freedom but also to protest attempts to ban books and other literature. Within the United States this protest is focused against efforts to remove certain books from school curriculum and public libraries. According to the American Library Association, one of the co-sponsors of the annual observance, there were 405 book challenges last year, a challenge defined as "a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness." Most of the challenges were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International USA is urging letters be written for six persecuted writers around the world, in conjunction with Banned Books Week:

- Aloys Kabura, a Burundi journalist arrested June 1 for comments he made criticizing an attack by police against a group of 30 journalists six weeks earlier.

- Shi Tao, 36, a journalist in China who was arrested in November 2004, and sentenced to ten years in prison for "divulging state secrets," that is, for emailing text abroad. He had written articles critical of social problems in the country and participated in online pro-democracy forums.

- Serkalem Fasil, 26, an Ethiopian publisher on trial for treason, along with 20 other journalists, "six newspaper publishing companies, four political parties, leaders of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), and various human rights defenders." Pregnant when arrested, she gave birth in prison.

- Arzhang Davoodi, an Iranian filmmaker serving a 15 year prison sentence, arrested in October 2003 after helping to make "Forbidden Iran", a television documentary that criticized Iranian authorities.

- Stanislav Dmitrievskii, Director of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society in Russia and editor of of the newspaper Rights Defender. He received four years probation plus a two year suspended sentence after he published articles urging a peaceful resolution to the Chechen conflict.

- Mohammed Abbou, a Tunisian lawyer and human rights defender who was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment in an April 2005 trial, largely for publishing two articles in his internet newspaper critical of Tunisian authorities and denouncing torture in the country.


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