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Fwd: ZGram - 12/9/2004 - "Book Bans in the US: You thought it couldn't happen here?" -

zgrams at zgrams.zundelsite.org
Fri Dec 10 07:37:56 EST 2004

>ZGram - Where Truth is Destiny:  Now more than ever!
>December 9, 2004
>Good Morning from the Zundelsite:
>Censorship coming to America!


>By Scott Martelle | Associated Press
>December 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 have fared so well.
>In an apparent reversal of decades of U.S. practice, recent federal 
>Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations bar American companies 
>from publishing works by dissident writers in countries under 
>sanction unless they first obtain U.S. government approval.
>The restriction, condemned by critics as a violation of the First 
>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 former Presidents Reagan and 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.
>Violations carry severe reprisals -- publishing houses can be fined 
>$1 million and individual violators face up to 10 years in prison 
>and a $250,000 fine.
>"Historically, the United States has served as a megaphone for 
>dissidents from other countries," said Ed Davis of New York, a 
>lawyer leading the PEN legal challenge. "Now we're not able to hear 
>from dissidents."
>Yet more than dissident voices are affected.
>The regulations already have led publishers to scrap plans for 
>volumes on Cuban architecture and birds, and publishers complain 
>that the rules threaten the intellectual breadth and independence of 
>academic journals.
>Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has joined the 
>lawsuit, arguing that the rules preclude American publishers from 
>helping craft her memoirs of surviving Iran's Islamic revolution and 
>her efforts to defend human rights in Iranian courts.
>In a further wrinkle, even if publishers obtain a license for a book 
>-- something they are loathe to do -- they believe the regulations 
>bar them from advertising it, forcing readers to find the dissident 
>works on their own.
>"It's absolutely against the First Amendment," fumed Arcade editor 
>Richard Seaver, who hopes to publish an anthology of Iranian short 
>stories. "We're not going to ask permission (to publish). That reeks 
>of censorship. And `censorship' is a word that gets my hackles up 
>very quickly."
>Officials from the U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees OFAC, 
>declined comment on the lawsuit, but spokeswoman Molly Millerwise 
>described the sanctions as "a very important part of our overall 
>national security."
>"These are countries that pose serious threats to the United States, 
>to our economy and security and our well being around the globe," 
>Millerwise said, adding that publishers can still bring dissident 
>writers to American readers as long as they first apply for a 
>"The licensing is a very important part of the sanctions policy 
>because it allows people to engage with these countries," Millerwise 
>said. "Anyone is free to apply to OFAC for a license."
>Critics say they shouldn't have to.
>"We have a long tradition of not accepting prior restraint," said 
>Wendy Strothman of Boston, who hopes to serve as Ebadi's literary 
>agent should the regulations be struck down. "The notion of getting 
>a license seems to me to be completely counter to the spirit of the 
>First Amendment. ... It's really, for me, mostly about the notion of 
>freedom of expression."
>The literature that might be lost to American readers is impossible 
>to measure, but in recent months the bestseller lists have been 
>dominated by Azar Nafisi's "Reading Lolita in Tehran," a memoir she 
>wrote in exile. And Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel, "Persepolis: 
>The Story of a Childhood," written and published after her family 
>left Iran for France, has found an international audience.
>Tom Miller, author of "Trading With the Enemy: A Yankee Travels 
>Through Castro's Cuba," said the regulations not only "nullify the 
>First Amendment" but would dampen the hopes of censored Cuban 
>"It would be all the more depressing," said Miller, who travels to 
>Cuba several times a year under U.S. licenses for journalistic, 
>academic or cultural purposes. "There are two places Cubans get 
>published outside of Cuba -- Spain and the States. To cut that short 
>list in half is devastating. In the U.S., it means less artistic and 
>literary infusion from overseas."
>Curt Goering, deputy executive director for the Amnesty 
>International human rights monitoring group, criticized the 
>regulations as "a violation of some fundamental human rights."
>Goering said international covenants recognize the right of people 
>to receive and distribute information regardless of political 
>boundaries. "It's yet another example of the hypocrisy of this 
>administration on human rights," Goering said, adding that while the 
>United States defends its role in Iraq as a defense of liberty at 
>home it is "blocking" publication of dissident voices.
>Kmiec, who is not part of the legal challenge, said the First 
>Amendment -- and subsequent court rulings -- generally preclude the 
>government from restricting publications before they are made.
>"It does allow for limitations where there are clear and present 
>dangers and compelling foreign policy or other interests that can be 
>tangibly and authentically demonstrated," Kmiec said. "But short of 
>that special application and very rare circumstance, government 
>censorship is properly off-limits. These efforts to restrain in 
>advance are almost sure to fail."
>The dispute centers on a Treasury Department interpretation this 
>year of regulations rooted in the 1917 "Trading With the Enemy Act," 
>which allows the president to bar transactions with people or 
>businesses in nations during times of war or national emergency. A 
>1988 amendment by Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif.,relaxed the act to 
>effectively give publishers an exemption while maintaining 
>restrictions on general trade.
>In April, OFAC regulators amended an earlier interpretation to 
>advise academic publishers that they can make minor changes to works 
>already published in sanctioned countries and reissue them.
>But the regulators said editors cannot provide broader services 
>considered basic to publishing, such as commissioning works, making 
>"substantive" changes to texts, or adding illustrations.
>The regulations seem shaded by Joseph Heller's classic novel "Catch-22."
>American publishers are allowed to reissue, for example, Cuban 
>communist propaganda or officially approved books but not original 
>works by writers whom the Cuban government has stifled.
>In a letter to Treasury officials this past spring, Berman described 
>the regulations as "patently absurd" and said they form a "narrow 
>and misguided interpretation of the law."
>"It is in our national interest to support the dissemination of 
>American ideas and values, especially in nations with oppressive 
>regimes," Berman said. "At the same time, (the Berman amendment) is 
>intended to ensure the right of American citizens to have access to 
>a wide range of information and satisfy their curiosity about the 
>world around them."

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