Censorship Returns To Iraq

A reader points us to a news item we missed last week:

The Iraqi Ministry of Culture has just taken the unexpected step of launching a program of official censorship of books imported from abroad. The new rule also applies to books published within Iraq, as publishers are required to obtain authorization before printing.

Needless to say, this has provoked a hostile reaction from Iraqi publishers and booksellers, calling it “a great step backwards on the path of freedom of thought and expression,” as guaranteed by the new Iraqi constitution. A number of critics have pointed out another problem with the new rule in the Iraqi context: the possibility of sectarian influences in the Ministry of Culture affecting the decision about what books can or cannot be published.  After what some intellectuals have called six years of “free circulation of books,” there is a sense that this is a return to censorship of the Saddam years.

Publishing Perspectives also has article examining censorship in neighboring Iran. The piece is written by Arash Hejazi, a novelist and founder of a Tehran-based publishing house who is most famous for being the trained physician who tried to save Neda.