The long history of censorship
Censorship has followed the free expressions of men and women
like a shadow through history. In ancient societies, such as those of Israel
or China, censorship was considered a legitimate instrument for regulating the
moral and political life of the population. In China, the first censorship law
was introduced in 300 AD. The origin of the term censor in English can
be traced to the office of censor established in Rome in 443 BC. In Rome, as
in the ancient Greek communities, the ideal of good governance
included shaping the character of the people. Hence censorship would
have been regarded as an honourable task. The most famous case of censorship
in ancient times is that of Socrates, sentenced to drink poison in 399 BC for
his corruption of youth and his acknowledgement of unorthodox divinities. But
it is fair to assume that Socrates was not the first person to be severely punished
for violating the moral and political code of his time. This ancient view of
censorship, as a benevolent public service in the best interest of the people,
is still upheld by countries such as China, as it was advocated by the rulers
of the Soviet Union (USSR), responsible for the longest lasting and most extensive
censorship of the 20th Century.
The struggle for freedom of expression is as ancient as the history
of censorship. The playwright Euripides (480 -406 BC) defended the true liberty
of freeborn men; the right to speak freely, and he added diplomatically: "Who
neither can nor will may hold his peace. What can be more just in a State than
Free speech and freely expressed thoughts and ideas may have
posed problems to pre-Christian rulers, but hardly more troublesome than to
the guardians of Christianity, as orthodoxy became established. Helpful measures
to fend off a heretical threat to Christian doctrine were introduced, such as
the Nicene Creed, promulgated in AD 325. But as more books were written, copied
and increasingly widely disseminated, subversive and heretical ideas were spread
beyond control. Consequently, censorship became more rigid and punishment more
severe. The problem increased with the invention of the
printing press in Europe in the middle of the 15th Century. Although
printing greatly aided the Catholic church and its mission, it also aided the
Protestant Reformation and "heretics" such as Martin Luther, thus the printed
book became an arena for a religious battle. In western
history, the very term censorship takes on a whole new meaning with the introduction
of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum - lists of books banned for their
heretical or ideologically dangerous content, issued by the Roman Catholic Church,
and with the Sacred Inquisition as the zealous guardians, banning and burning
books and sometimes also the authors. The most famous of banned authors undoubtedly
being Galileo in 1633. The most famous victims of the Inquisitions trials being
Joan of Arc (1431) and Thomas More (1535).
The first Index of Prohibited Books was drawn up by order of
Pope Paul IV in 1559. The lists were issued 20 times through the centuries by
different popes, the last issued as recently as in 1948, and finally suppressed
The Catholic Church, controlling universities such as the Sorbonne,
also controlled all publications through its decree in 1543 that no book could
be printed or sold without permission of the church. Then in 1563, Charles IX
of France decreed that nothing could be printed without the special permission
of the king. Soon other secular rulers of Europe followed suit, and scientific
and artistic expressions, potentially threatening to the moral and political
order of society, were brought under control through systems of governmental
licence to print and publish.
The dual system of censorship created through the close alliance
between church and state in Catholic countries, was also exported to the forcibly
colonised countries in the Americas.
"The Spanish authorities were not
only worried about the religious situation in Europe, but also in America. The
possibility that America could be invaded with ideas from protestant countries
was considered a permanent threat." Notes the Peruvian
historian Pedro Guibovich in his article The Lima Inquisition and Book Censorship.
The Inquisition established in Peru in 1568, was part of a colonial policy by Philip II of Spain, designed to deal with the political and ideological crisis in the Peruvian viceroyalty. The Peruvian system was a blueprint of the Spanish, entailing control of the import of books, the inquisitorial officers periodically examining ships and luggage in ports, inspecting libraries, bookstores and printing houses. When the Inquisition was established in Peru in 1569, the Tribunal's district ranged from Panama to Chile and Rio de La Plata.
Oppressive and sinister as the censorship executed by the Inquisition
no doubt was to the peoples of the colonies
of the Americas, hardly anything can compare to the devastating effect of the
destruction by the Spanish invaders of the unique literature of the Maya people.
The burning of the Maya Codex remains one of the worst criminal acts committed
against a people and their cultural heritage, and no less a terrible loss to the
world heritage of literature and language.
The importance of dissemination of information
As vital to dissemination of information as the art of printing was, was also the development of regular postal service. First established in France in 1464, the postal service soon became the most widely used transportation system of person-to-person and country-to-country communication. However, the postal service also came to play a crucial role as an instrument of censorship in many countries, particularly in times of war, not least efficiently employed by the British Empire during the first half of the 20th Century. Even today the postal service remains a tool of censorship in many countries where the import of prohibited literature, magazines, films etc. is regulated
In Europe, printing naturally also spurned the development of newsletters/papers. The Relation of Strasbourg, regarded as the first regularly printed newsletter, appeared in 1609. This was soon followed by the establishment of newspapers in other European countries catering for a growing public demand for news and information, such as in Switzerland in 1610, the Habsburg domains in central Europe in 1620, England in 1621, France in 1631, Denmark in 1634, Italy in 1636, Sweden in 1645, and Poland in 1661. In parts of India, however, newsletters had been circulated already from the 16th century.
As the number of newspapers rapidly grew, greatly improving the sources of information accessible to the literate peoples of Europe, so did also the official concern of the harm inflicted on peoples morals and minds, particularly in times of war or internal crisis. Thus the Licensing Act of 1662 was ruthlessly enforced in Britain until after the Great Plague of 1664-65. In Germany, the press was effectively inhibited during the Thirty Years' War (1618-48), not only through censorship, but also through trade restrictions and lack of paper. Notably, such means of restriction are still today effectively hampering the development of a free press in many countries across the world.
The age of Enlightenment and freedom of expression
The powerful bureaucratic system of pre-censorship practised in late Medieval Europe, was the target for John Milton in his much disputed speech "Areopagitica" to the Parliament of England in 1644, vigorously opposing the Licensing Act passed by Parliament in 1643. In Miltons noble plea for freedom of the press, he also quoted Euripides, adding the weight of the ancient struggle for free expression to his own arguments. Milton's strong advocacy in defence of free expression contributed to the final lapse of the Licensing Act in Britain in 1694. Miltons "Areopagitica" also became one of the most quoted sources of argument for freedom of expression, and remains today a true beacon of enlightenment.
The 17th and 18th centuries represented a time of reason; the rights, liberty and dignity of the individual coming into political focus, and subsequently becoming subject to legislative protection. Sweden was the first country to abolish censorship and introduce a law guaranteeing freedom of the press in 1766, then Denmark/Norway followed suit in 1770. Today, the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States ( 1787 ), guaranteeing freedom of speech as well as of the press, is regarded as the root of the comprehensive protection of freedom of expression in western countries, along with the much quoted statement by the French National Assembly in 1789:
"The free communication of thought and opinion is one of the most precious rights of man; every citizen may therefore speak, write and print freely."
Although censorship, as a frequently applied legislated instrument,
lost ground during and after the 18th century in Europe, governments
maintained legal frameworks curbing freedom of expression. The instruments now
being acts of national security, criminal acts on obscenity or blasphemy, or
laws on libel. In the United States, were formal censorship never existed, the
law on libel and thus the courts became the testing ground for free expression.
This was also the case in Britain after the lapse of the Licensing Act in 1694.
Subsequently, the courts became the controllers in many a country embracing
the principles of freedom of expression. Laws of libel were often subject to
loose interpretations, giving license to continued restraint, harassment, and
persecution of the mounting challenges by artists, journalists and other intellectuals
to the contemporary concepts of national security, blasphemy and obscenity.
Censorship and the establishment of newspapers
In the 18th century, the press in most of Europe was frequently
subject to strict censorship. The 19th century saw the emergence
of an independent press, censorship gradually having to cede to the demand for
a free press. Yet this was also an age of strict press censorship in countries
such as Japan; their first daily newspaper (1870), the Yokohama Mainichi, born
in a time when arrests of journalists and suppression of newspapers were all
too common. Also colonial governments, such as those of Russia or Britain, exercised
a tight control on political publications in their domains; Russia as in the
Baltic states, Britain as in Australia, Canada, India and the colonised Africa.
In Australia, full censorship lasted until 1823, while in South Africa a press
law was passed in 1828 to secure a modicum of publishing freedom. In South Africa
however, politics of racial division prevented freedom, being totally suppressive
during Apartheid, only to be abandoned in the last decade of the 20th
century. In modern times, restrictions on press freedom continue in many African
and Asian countries, in eastern Europe, and in Latin America.
Censorship in libraries - the benevolent public
concern for morality
Although government-instituted censorship had apparently been
abandoned in most western countries during the 19th and most of the
20th century, public concern for offensive literature did not subside.
Subsequently, public libraries were expected to act as the benevolent guardians
of literature, particularly concerning books for young readers. This, in turn,
gave teachers and librarians licence to censor a wide range of books in libraries
under the pretext of protecting readers from morally destructive and offensive
literature. Surprisingly, in liberal minded countries such as Sweden and Norway,
boasting the earliest laws on press freedom, surveillance of public and school
libraries remained a concern to authors and publishers even through the latter
part of the century. No less surprising is the die-hard tradition of surveillance
of books in schools and libraries in the United States. One of the most stunning
examples being Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", first banned
in 1885 in the Concord Public Library, but still in 1984 in jeopardy, according
to the author Arthur Schlesinger in the "Censorship - 500 years of conflict".
In spite of the Library Bill of Rights, the library professions interpretation
of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, public and school libraries in
the US are still subject to pressure from groups claiming to represent the interest
of parents or religious moral codes, having to face demands to remove books
of "questionable content". However, this practice has not remained
unchallenged by the libraries themselves. The American Library Association
ALA through its Office of Intellectual Freedom, maintains statistics
on attempts to censor libraries in various states, and regularly publish lists
of challenged books.
However, censorship of libraries is far from a recent practice.
On the contrary, libraries have been the targets of censorship since ancient
times. History is littered with the destruction of library collections, and
libraries themselves becoming flaming pyres on all continents, the deliberate
burning of a library recorded in China as early as in 221 BC. Although the destruction
by fire of 400,000 rolls in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in 47 BC was by all
accounts accidental, the burning of the entire collection of the University
of Oxford library in 1683 was on direct orders from the king. Even in the 20th
century, the burning and destruction of libraries has been extensively applied
by rulers, as a warning to subversives and a method of ethnic language purging,
as was the case in Sarajevo and Kosova. In 1991 the Serbian government banned
Albanian as a language of instruction at all levels of education. During the
period 1990- 99, all the libraries in Kosova were subjected to the burning or
destruction of the Albanianlanguage collections, according to reports
from the joint UNESCO, Council of Europe and IFLA/FAIFE Kosova Library Mission
in 2000. The Serbian governments deliberate cultural ethnic cleansing on the
brink of a new millennium will stand as a distressful monument to the enduring
tradition of destructive censorship.
Public book pyres were favoured by the Naziregime in Germany
in the late 1930s as one of their many brutal methods of censorship. The destruction
of libraries was systematically applied by the rulers of the Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics, USSR, infamous for the longest lasting and most extensive
censorship in the 20th century.
Censorship in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
the longest lasting in the 20th century
The Russian empire, having a long tradition of strict censorship,
was slow to undergo the changes that central European countries had passed a
century before. Censorship reforms were started in a single decade of tolerance,
from 1855 to 1865 during the reign of tsar Alexander II, when the transition
was made from legislation on pre-censorship to the punitive system based on
legal responsibility. During the decade, the press enjoyed greater freedom and
more radical ideas were voiced, thus censorship laws were re-imposed in 1866,
practically eliminating the basic ideas of the reform. Only half a century later,
pre-censorship was abrogated in the law of 1905-1906. Finally, all censorship
were abolished in the decrees dated April 27, 1917 issued by the Temporary Government.
However, the freedom was short lived. The decrees were only in force until October
1917. Then a new, long and extensive era of strict censorship began, now executed
by the revolutionary rulers of the USSR, lasting until the end of the 1980s.
Taking into account the long history of strict censorship during tsar-regimes,
the Russian people have only been without formal censorship in the last decade
of this millennium.
The new order of the USSR meant drastic political and economic
changes, but also the areas of culture, education and religion were subject
to revolutionary changes, all with the idealistic intentions of relieving the
new Soviet citizen of the suppressive yokes of feudalism. Hence religion, regarded
as gross and misleading superstition, was targeted only a few months after the
revolution. In the spring of 1918, a decree was issued formally separating church
from state, followed by strict prohibitions imposed on religious bodies along
with nationalisation of all church property. In 1922, the central censorship
office was established, known for short as Glavlit. Aiming to purge the Soviet
society of all expressions regarded as destructive to the new order and contagious
to the minds of people, the Glavlit had absolute authority to subject the performing
arts and all publications to preventive censorship, and suppress political dissidence
by shutting down "hostile" newspapers. However, in the early 1920s
during the time of Lenin and Trotsky, writers and artists were granted creative
freedom, provided they observed the rule of not engaging in overt political
dissent. This leniency may be attributed to the regimes recognition of
the importance of intellectuals for the conveyance of the new ideals. Although
the majority of intellectuals were opposed to the revolution, many artists and
intellectuals supported the revolutions ideals of equality for all and
freedom from slavery and poverty. Also Russian artists had embraced the ideals
of the European Modernist Movement, already in 1915 forming the visionary Avant
Garde aesthetic movement, surviving until 1932. Thus, the first years of
the new order saw a degree of innovation in literature and the arts, starkly
contrasting to the overall political rigidity of the regime. All leniency was
to end with the Stalin regime. Hence forward, the censorship system became all
the more elaborate, and the methods of purging increasingly sinister; authorising
printing, banning publications and preventing import of foreign books.
The Glavlit system exported to countries occupied
by the USSR
After a time, the strict censorship system of the USSR was also
imposed on all occupied countries and satellite-states, many of whom had been
subject to the censorship of imperial Russia. When Soviet occupied independent
Lithuania in 1940, a "bibliocide" started, lasting in effect until
1989, only interrupted in 1941-1944 by the German occupation, infamous for their
book pyres and deadly censorship in Germany and occupied countries. In the
study "Forbidden Authors and Publications", Klemensas Sinkevicius describes
the strategy of the Soviet censorship in occupied Lithuania performed by zealous
local inspectors, engaged by the then infamous Glavlit. "After the restoration
of Lithuanian independence we got an opportunity to study the most tragic period
in the history of Lithuanian libraries" Sinkevicius concludes. His study
for the National Library of Lithuania is the first of its kind in Lithuania.
Many of the works of Lithuanian writers now only exist in the long list of banned
and destroyed books.
WW II Nazi Germany and occupied countries
"From these ashes will rise the phoenix of the new spirit",
Goebbels optimistically declared as the massive funeral pyres of some 20 000
volumes of offensive books were devoured by flames in Germany in 1933. Numerous
book pyres were enthusiastically lit by the Hitler Jugend, the young members
of the fanatical Nazi movement, growing stronger and gaining ever more power
in Austria and Germany during the 1930s. In order to cleanse the minds of people
and society, any book written by a Jewish author, or a communist or humanist,
was fed to the flames. "Where they have burned books, they will end
in burning human beings", observed the German author Heinrich Heine.
He was sadly right, as proved by NaziGermanys gruesome mass extermination
of people, including at least 6 million Jews, but also Romani, communists, dissidents,
handicapped any deviators from the ideal "Arian Race".
Hitler, the omnipotent Fürer of the Third Reich, also implemented
the severe censorship and intolerable propaganda machine of the Nazi regime
to all countries occupied during WW II (1940-45). In occupied countries, national
newspapers, publishers and radios were taken over at once, or shut down. In
countries such as Norway, strict censorship was put in place, making listening
to "foreign" radio or producing, reading or disseminate illegal newspapers
punishable with death.
Despite the threat of severe punishment, the illegal press flourished
in occupied countries such as Norway,
where more than 400 newsletters and papers were published by groups of activists
recruited from all parts of society. As activists were arrested or had to flee
the country, new volunteers took on the illegal work, keeping the chain of communication
unbroken until the end of the war. In Denmark, 541 illegal newsletters and papers
were published, and as in Norway, members of the illegal groups were executed
or died in concentration camps because of their activities.
The illegal and underground publishing of all suppressed nations
represents the most outstanding monuments to the peoples relentless struggle
for freedom of expression. Most outstanding is the vigorous illegal (samizdat)
press and publishing in the former East Block countries, during the Soviet and
the Nazi reign, representing both a firm stand against brainwashing, and against
the most devastating consequence of censorship; oblivion. From countries such
as Poland, writers manuscripts were smuggled out and printed abroad. Classical
and contemporary works of foreign writers were translated into Polish and smuggled
back into Poland.
Apartheid censorship in South Africa
The Apartheid regime in South Africa (1950- 1994), in upholding
their cruel policy of racism, doted on severe censorship, torture and killings,
not only to strangle the South African extra-parliamentary liberation movement
- the African National Congress, ANC, - but seemingly also to erase memory.
In this respect, the prohibitive policies of the Apartheid regime strongly resembles
that of the USSR. The censorship affected every aspect of cultural, intellectual
and educational life, and although grimly menacing, the magnitude of the banning
of ANC-symbols; buttons, T-shirts and lighters included, was truly paranoid.
Detailed information about all items censored has been carefully compiled by
the South African publisher Jacobsen, in the "Jacobsen's index of
objectionable literature" (1996). This admirable work is restoring to memory
and for posterity all the details of the Apartheid madness. The relentless struggle
against the Apartheid regime has been subject to numerous studies, notably also
by the South African historian Christopher Merrett, who besides producing books
such as "A Culture of Censorship", also has compiled a complete list
of censorship through the entire history of South-Africa. The list included
in the Beacon for freedom of expression database, has been given with
the gracious consent of the author.
"Truth is the first victim in a war" - the press
in times of war
All through its 400 years history, the media has been the first
hostage to be taken, either by occupying forces or by military dictators when
overthrowing governments. As a rule, the press has been faced with the choices
of gagging or closure, and many a respectable newspaper was simply taken over
by or submitted to becoming the mouthpiece of the new rulers. In the years prior
to the outbreak of World War II, the press in Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal
was subject to rigid Fascist censorship, no less strict than that practised
by the enemy the USSR. The stranglehold on the press tightened considerably
during World War II, not least in countries like Japan. In the United States
and Britain there was an expected clampdown on news coverage, as was the case
during World War I. The British and American press and media, often submitting
voluntarily to self-censorship, was also the targets of a steady flow of official
news and propaganda issued by The British Ministry of Information and the U.S.
Office of War Information. In USA, a "Code of Wartime Practices for the American
Press" was also issued by the Office of Censorship.
The war of words is less lethal, but no less dirty than the war
of weapons. The combination of demonising the enemy and whitewashing one's own
cruel deeds, while blindfolding the people through rigid censorship, have been
favoured strategies of many a warlord and dictator throughout history. Some
of the worst examples of rigid press censorship induced by military dictators
in the 20th century were those of Spain (Spanish Civil War 1936-39
- the regime lasted from 1936-1975), Greece 1967 -1974, Chile 1973-1990
and Nigeria 1966-1999. Also Turkey, under the pretext of ensuring national
security against "the enemy within" the Kurd minority - still
upholds strict censorship through the AntiTerror Act of 1991, in spite
of countless pleas from the international society.
The role of media in war was starkly demonstrated in the spring
of 1999, when the NATO alliance started the campaign of bombing, designed to
force the Yugoslav government to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosova and secure
peace and human rights. The Yugoslav government, having clamped down on independent
national media for almost a decade, expelled from Kosova all foreign media and
independent observers. Thus the government gained unlimited license to kill,
terrorise and deport hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians from Kosova.
Due to their leaders archaic policy of censorship and propaganda, the
Serb population of Yugoslavia lost all sympathy in international public opinion.
But also the NATO alliance launched a war of words, portraying their "war for
peace" as just and clean. When in April 1999 it became indisputably evident
that NATO bombs had killed Kosova-Albanian refugees, NATO Headquarters informed
the international media in a manner that was characterised as misleading by
the international media. NATOs deliberate and deadly bombings of the radio
and television stations in Belgrade were also strongly criticised as contradictory
to the humanistic aims of the NATO operation.
"Those that live by the pen shall die by the sword"
With these words the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) declared war on
the media in Algeria, instigating one of the most chilling contemporary examples
of the deliberate murder of the messenger. From May 1993 until the end of 1995,
58 editors, journalists and media workers were systematically executed; 9 in 1993,
19 in 1994 and 24 in 1995, with the intent of punishing and scaring journalists
from acting as mouthpieces for the Algerian authorities. This slaughtering was
triggered by the conflict exploding when the Algerian army disrupted the election
of a National Assembly in 1992, to prevent what seemed the be the certain victory
of the fundamentalist party Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). The Algerian
press, having long suffered rigorous censorship, not least during French colonial
rule, was caught in the crossfire between the authorities and the opposition.
As the conflict mounted, the authorities introduced sterner press censorship under
the pretext of national security, clamping down ever harder on the coverage of
civilian killings, introducing in 1996 rigid pre-censorship of all "non official"
reports on the bloody conflict. With Algeria being off-limits to foreign press
and independent observers, the killings could go on behind closed doors. By 1998,
independent observers estimated that between 80 000 and 100 000 civilians had
fallen victim to the frenzied slaughter. Only then, in 1998, did the Algerian
government amend their press law, no doubt thanks to the incessant pressure from
independent freedom of expression organisations.
Modern day Inquisition in Iran
Even though centuries and cultures apart, there are striking resemblance
between the arguments and zealousness of the Inquisition of the Catholic Church
and that of the Ministry of Islamic Guidance in the modern Islamic Republic of
Iran. After a period of a liberalised climate for publishing following the Islamic
revolution in 1979, the war against Iraq (1981) and the combat against opposition
groups within the Islamic Republic gave the government opportunity to introduce
strict censorship. When the war ended in 1988, censorship became monopolised by
the traditional extremists, eager to purge the Iranian society of freedom-seekers
and dissenters. The Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution (SCCR) issued in the
spring of 1988 resolutions on limitations of publishing. With the aid of the revolutionary
courts, offenders have regularly been charged with propaganda against the Islamic
Republic and the desecration of public morals, often resulting in executions.
Even though the people of Iran in two successive elections, the latest in 2001,
have elected a liberal president, the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution holds
the reins of power, and the revolutionary courts still continue to gag the press
and punish editors and journalists.
"Not to forget and never let it happen again"
When signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948,
the members of the newly established United Nations pledged to remember the millions
of people murdered in Nazi Germany. But history has repeated itself, also in full
view of the international media-saturated community, as in Rwanda in 1994 and
in the Yugoslav dominions in the I990s. And yet, most member countries of the
UN has signed the declaration, and a substantial number of countries across the
world have made legislative adjustments in accordance with the principles of Article
19, even in sensitive areas such as the official secrets acts. Reality, alas,
contradicts the theory. In 1998 alone, the year of international celebrations
of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human
Rights, independent human rights and freedom of expression organisations reported
violations of freedom of expression in almost 120 countries; 118 journalists were
imprisoned in 25 countries and 24 journalists were murdered. Numerous newspapers,
publishers and broadcasters were subject to banning, closure or violent attacks
such as bombings. Currently, most of the serious attacks on freedom of expression
are committed in countries in the Southern hemisphere or former East Block countries,
and even today, more than half the world's population still lacks an independent
Considering the vital importance of the written media in the process of democratisation and transparency in any society, and the no less important contribution of the written word to the growth of literacy in numerous countries, this is indeed a tragic state of affairs.
However, while Western governments and human rights defenders justly
criticise the abuses committed in countries of the Southern Hemisphere or former
East Block countries, we should in all fairness not forget the dark history of
censorship in Europe and the colonised countries, nor our cruel suppression of
indigenous cultures, languages and non-written literature. After all, no amount
of past crimes can ever justify present crimes. It is a crucial mistake, made
by too many Western defenders of human rights, not to acknowledge our past, and
fail to criticise our allies for their current abuses of human rights. The non-existent
European criticism in the UN of the systematic purging of libraries in Southern
France by Front National, gives perpetrating governments such as those of China
or Burma a welcome opportunity to accuse the Western countries of being one-sided
in their criticisms. If Western countries, when protesting violations committed
in the Southern hemisphere, more readily admitted their past and the violations
of their allies, the climate of the vital dialogues might improve.
The painful paradox of history's worst crimes continuing to repeat
themselves can not be resolved by creating a database such as the Beacon for
freedom of expression, but it will provide another tool for enlightenment
and actions by people, thus hopefully contributing to end the violations.
Thanks to the generous contribution by numerous universities and
national libraries, institutions and freedom of expression organisations across
the world, this memory bank now contains guides to the accumulated documentation
and knowledge of the world status on censorship and freedom of expression for
more than 2000 years, as well as many thousands of books and newspapers that fell
subject to banning through most of the last millennium.
Each entry of title and authors name represents a minute
but significant monument to memory, the entire collection of titles in the database still representing but a small section of the books and newspapers that have
been censored in the history of the world. Yet the Beacon for freedom of expression
is an electronic monument under construction that will be steadily growing through
the continued joint efforts of all the very competent partners concerned.
In writing this article I am indebted to a great multitude of sources,
all of which are to be found documented in the database, or linked to this web
site: Beacon for freedom of expression, dedicated to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
The author, Mette Newth.
Norway July 2001