Thursday, October 28, 2004

Book banning in America

Pen American Center has issued a joint press release supporting a suit filed by Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human rights activist awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, against the U.S. Treasury Department in federal court in New York. Her suit is against regulations of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) which prohibit the publication of a book she wants to write about her life and her work for readers in the United States. Some excerpts:

Ms. Ebadi's predicament provides a perfect illustration of the harm the OFAC regulations cause. Ms. Ebadi has been imprisoned for her human rights work in Iran. She could not publish the book she wants to write in Iran, but the OFAC regulations also prevent anyone from publishing it in the United States. As long as the regulations stand, the book will not come into being.

The regulations were first challenged in a lawsuit filed on September 27, 2004, by the Association of American Publishers Professional and Scholarly Publishing division (AAP/PSP), the Association of American University Presses (AAUP), PEN American Center (PEN), and Arcade Publishing.

The publishing and authors' groups point to Ms. Ebadi as exactly the kind of author whose work should be published in the United States....

...The OFAC regulations specifically forbid the publication of works by authors in Iran, Cuba and Sudan unless the works in question have already been completed before any American is involved. Americans may not co-author books or articles with authors in the embargoed countries and may not enter into "transactions" involving any works that are not yet fully completed—even though authors, publishers an agents generally must work with one another well before a new work is fully created—and Americans may not provide "substantive or artistic alterations or enhancements" or promote or market either new or previously existing works from the affected countries, unless they obtain a specific license from OFAC. Violators are subject to prison sentences of up to 10 years or fines of up to $1,000,000 per violation.

Both Ms. Ebadi and the groups that initiated the challenge agree that Ms. Ebadi is only the most prominent example of a valuable voice that has been silenced. "There are untold numbers of less prominent authors whose stories have no chance of reaching us. The embargoes are cutting Americans off from scholars, dissidents, scientists and others in regions that are of enormous public concern," said Peter Givler, Executive Director of AAUP. He cited books on history, music and archaeology that university presses have been unable to publish, and even an article that had to be withdrawn from the scholarly journal Mathematical Geology. "Ms. Ebadi's inability to publish her memoirs provides another example of the chilling effect the regulations are having on publishing in America." ...


Blogger Robert said...

Great article Steve. I posted a link to your site from mine.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Stephen Denney said...

Hi Robert, thanks for doing that. I did notice and appreciate it. Looks like we got Jack upset again. ;-)

7:04 PM  

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