Banned books and other forms of censorship

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

Friday, December 29, 2006

Radiation sickness report published 61 years later

A detailed report by news correspondent George Weller on radiation sickness following the dropping of nuclear bombs in Japan has been published, four years after his death and 61 years after it was censored by the U.S. army. Weller, the first reporter to reach Nagasaki after it was bombed, had written the stories for the (now defunct) Chicago Daily News. He sent the report series, about 75 typewritten pages with photos, to the military censors in Tokyo for approval, but General Douglas MacArthur ordered them destroyed. Weller died in 2002 at the age of 95 and his son discovered carbon copies of the writings in his father's apartment in Rome. The book, First Into Nagasaki, is due out this week. Weller's reports were similar to that of Australian (communist) news correspondent Wilfred Burchett, who had reported on the aftermath of the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima, but contrary to the officially approved reports of New York Times correspondent William Laurance, later discovered to be on the White House payroll, who praised the bombings and dismissed reports of radiation sickness as "Japanese propaganda."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Critic of Guantanamo and Pakistan agency missing

Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, a former prisoner of Guantanamo who co-authored with his brother a book about their prison experiences, is now missing. He was taken away Sept. 29, about three weeks after the book's release, as he left a mosque after prayers in Peshawar, Pakistan. The 450-page book, The Broken Shackles of Guantanamo, is highly critical of both conditions at Guantanamo and the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence agency. According to Associated Press, Dost "has written more than 30 books, including poetry, and has edited magazines sympathetic to militant Islam, dating back to support for the Muslim guerrillas who fought Soviet troops occupying Afghanistan in the 1980s." He was accused of running a liaison office for al-Qaida in Herat, Afghanistan, a charge which he denied. He and his brother Badruz Zaman Badar were released from prison in 2005. Amnesty International believes Dost was arrested because of the book's criticism of the Pakistan intelligence agency, and says there have been hundreds of disappearances of suspected individuals in Pakistan as part of the war on terror, with prisoners held incommunicado and deprived of basic rights.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Iraq journalist death toll sets record

Violence in Iraq took the lives of 32 journalists this year, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists, the largest number of journalist deaths in a single country that CPJ has ever recorded. It says in most cases insurgents specifically targeted journalists for death. Overall, 55 journalists around the world were killed in direct connection for their work during 2006, an increase over the 47 journalists killed in 2005.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Senior UNESCO advisor wants book banned

Senior advisor to UNESCO and former Sri Lanka president Chandrika Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga is seeking to ban a book which describes corruption, misdeeds and human rights abuses under her tenure in Sri Lanka. The book, Choura Regina ("Rogue Queen") is written by Victor Ivan, a well-known journalist in Sri Lanka. In a Nov. 12 interview with the Sunday Leader newspaper, she said the book contained "absolute filth" about her and that she would write to the Sri Lanka president to ask why the book was not banned.

In a letter to UNESCO director general Koïchiro Matsuura, Free Media Movement convenor Sunanda Deshapriya said that while Ms. Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga was within her rights to express her displeasure with the book or to seek appropriate legal redress, her effort to ban the book was directly contrary to UNESCO's advocacy "of the basic human right of freedom of expression, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and its corollary, press freedom."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Book banned in China

A book about an independent campaign to win a parliamentary seat in China has been banned. The book, I Oppose -- A Political Career of a People's Congress Delegate by Zhu Ling, is about Yao Lifa, who became a grassroots democracy symbol and an inspiration for others with his candidacy. It was published in late October by Hainan Publication House, after several other publishing houses in China had been approached. The Propaganda department of the China Communist Party ordered the publisher to pull all copies from circulation and freeze all those in stock.

The publisher sought to keep a low profile prior to the ban by distributing the book to small privately owned bookstores. The book was not sold in Hainan province because it included descriptions of corruption and manipulation of elections by provincial and local officials. Its first print run was 15,000 copies, with more than 8,000 sold within a month. However, Mr. Yao himself was unable to read the book as he is under strict surveillance. Another independent parliamentary candidate was recently arrested as he was on his way to a polling station and released after voting ended.

CPJ reports more journalists imprisoned

The number of imprisoned journalists around the world has increased by nine to 134 over the last year, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists. A growing proportion of these are internet journalists, who now comprise one-third of the total. Print journalists continue to comprise the largest proportion of those imprisoned, with 67 prisoners. Of the 24 nations that imprison journalists, the worst offenders are China, Cuba, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Rumpole and the Reign of Terror

Rumpole of the Bailey fans might be interested in this novel by John Mortimer: Rumpole and the Reign of Terror. It is about a British hospital doctor of Pakistani descent who is accused of being a terrorist. Britain's Anti-Terror Act, which seems alot like the U.S. Patriot Act, initially prevents Rumpole from finding out what exactly are the alleged terrorist activities of the doctor, i.e. the right of habeas corpus is denied to the defendant and his lawyer. Published by Viking, 2006.

For more information on Mortimer's views on the British Anti-Terror Act, and this novel, see:

My return

I am back after having been gone for several weeks. My father, a retired meteorologist, passed away Nov. 30 at the age of 88. I will resume posting here, but it will take time to get back to full speed.