Tuesday, December 07, 2004

US Bans Books from Countries We Don't Like

Will voices of dissent still be heard?

U.S. firms now need OK to publish authors from nations under sanction.
By Scott Martelle
Times Staff Writer

Dec 7 2004

In the summer of 1956, Russian poet Boris Pasternak — a favorite of the recently deceased Joseph Stalin — delivered his epic "Doctor Zhivago" manuscript to a Soviet publishing house, hoping for a warm reception and a fast track to readers who had shared Russia's torturous half-century of revolution and war, oppression and terror.

Instead, Pasternak received one of the all-time classic rejection letters: A 10,000-word missive that stopped just short of accusing him of treason. It was left to foreign publishers to give his smuggled manuscript life, offering the West a peek into the soul of the Cold War enemy, winning Pasternak the 1958 Nobel in literature and providing Hollywood with an epic film.

These days, Pasternak might not fare so well.

In an apparent reversal of decades of U.S. practice, recent federal Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations bar American firms from publishing works by dissident writers in countries under sanction unless they first get U.S. government approval.

The restriction, condemned by critics as a violation of the 1st Amendment, means that books and other works banned by some totalitarian regimes cannot be published freely in the United States, a country that prides itself as the international beacon of free expression.

"It strikes me as very odd," said Douglas Kmiec, a constitutional law professor at Pepperdine University and former constitutional legal counsel to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. "I think the government has an uphill struggle to justify this constitutionally."

Several groups, led by the PEN American Center and including Arcade Publishing, have filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York seeking to overturn the regulations, which cover writers in Iran, Sudan, Cuba, North Korea and, until recently, Iraq.

read more: http://www.calendarlive.com/templates/misc/printstory.jsp?slug=cl-et-dissidents7dec07§ion=%2Fprintedition%2Fcalendar


Blogger leftside said...

About a week after this posted the US subtely changed the position by saying that the proposal had been "misinterpreted" by the press and that it in no way was meant to ban books from these countries -- just from authors or topics we don't like from those countries.

Is there really any difference from a censorship point of view? I suppose this will still include say books on Cuban architecture of musis that are not sufficiently stuffed with manufactured lies and anti-Castro vitriol.

10:16 AM  

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