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Book censorship has tightened "dramatically", warns WiPC; writer jailed despite permission to publish

(WiPC/IFEX) - The following is a WiPC press release:

Call for action on Book Censorship in Iran.

The Writers Prison Committee of International PEN notes with deepening concern that since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in August 2005, book censorship in Iran has tightened dramatically, and state pressure on independent publishers has been mounting. Several thousand new and previously published works reportedly have been blacklisted by the Iranian authorities, and the publishing industry is said to be in crisis. PEN is distressed that the rise in book censorship appears to be part of a widespread crackdown on free expression, and reminds the Iranian authorities of their commitment to Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a signatory.

Following the banning by the Iranian authorities of the latest novel by Colombian writer and nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez, "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" (published in Iran as "My Sad Sweethearts") in November 2007, leading Iranian journalist and former PEN case Faraj Sarkouhi has written a report highlighting the issue of censorship in Iran. Radio Free Europe published his report on 26 November 2007, and has given PEN permission to circulate it. The following is an abridged version, to read the full report click here:

"Censorship has intensified over the last two years, with many books appearing only in expunged versions, while others previously available - like the García Márquez novel - have had subsequent print runs banned.

From the moment that Islamic Culture and Guidance Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar-Harandi took office in 2005, the list of prohibited books in Iran started growing. A quick look at the books on the list confirms that there has been an increase in the intensity and recklessness of censorship in all areas. The wide range of the banned literature includes Persian classical literature and gnosticism, a wide array of academic university books, some of the best-known world literature, and books illustrating a number of famous people from the Islamic world.

In the two years since Harrandi took office, more than 70 percent of previously-published books have been prohibited from being republished, even though each and every one of those books had initially been given permission from the pre-Harrandi Culture Ministry to be published the first time.

The Culture Ministry's "special examiners" have made decisions on the legitimacy of books based on the country's current political atmosphere and their own political, ideological, or personal interests. However, their decisions have no basis in the law.

Because of this, prohibiting the publication of officially authorized books has also become a common phenomenon . . . Not even an official authorization made by the Culture Ministry can rescue a writer from prison. Two works by Yaghoub Yaadali (note: featured in the 2007 Day of the Imprisoned Writer) - which were legally published - were condemned in the city of Yaasoudj, and the writer was accused of insulting the people of Lorestan Province and imprisoned . . . "

Faraj Sarkouhi was the editor of the Iranian cultural weekly Adineh, and was arrested in Iran in the late 1990s and sentenced to prison for "propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran." He moved to Germany following his release in 1998.

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