Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

BlogCatalog has organized a Community Human Rights Awareness Campaign. This effort challenged bloggers to do their part to help make the world a better place by posting about a particular social cause on a single day - today. Here is my contribution. My chosen topic is censorship.

Censorship is denying access to information. As a writer, I am sensitive to anything that restricts freedom of expression. As a person with a disability, I am sensitive to anything that denies access. As a reader, I am sensitive to the fact that restricting expression often leads to denying access or freedom or even life.

Censorship is a reality around the globe. Amnesty International (AI) highlights individuals who are persecuted because of what they write, produce, circulate, or read. This is not simply about crossing out content or controlling writers and publishers. People are punished for distributing or reading! People are punished for supporting or even just knowing about the unwanted ideas.

Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship."
-- George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and critic (1856-1950)

The AI list includes journalists, publishers, poets, bloggers, both male and female, from countries such as Russia, Egypt, Cuba and Myanmar. Crimes include articles against torture, calling for peace, or simply sending e-mails. Punishment may be pressure, but more often it is imprisonment or death.

Chinese is the most used language in the blogosphere, but its growth has been slowing in the last couple of years. Technorati's Tom Foremski speculates the slowdown is due to increasingly open censorship.

And the United States is not without it's share.
The Supreme Court says there are some types of expression that really should be censored. Find the details here. And what about the children -- how can they be protected? Read what the American Library Association (ALA) has to say here. What kinds of materials are censored most often? Find out here.

The Forbidden Library lists books that have been challenged or banned in the US. It is a long list, even though it is not complete. R
ead the list of books and reason they were banned. The Diary of Anne Frank is on the list because it is a "real downer." It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

And Tango Makes Three topped the ALA list as the most challenged book of 2007. It is about two male penguins who care for an orphaned egg. In fact eight of the top ten books were challenged for sexual or homosexual subjects. Huckleberry Finn was banned for racism. Children's books are often targeted because they encourage the kids not to obey their parents.

It is as if by banning the written word, the unwanted activity no longer exists. If our kids don't read about it, they will never do anything bad. After all, isn't that how it happens? And what about the kids who don't read -- do they do what their parents tell them?

"Censorship, like charity, should begin at home;
but unlike charity, it should end there." ~
Clare Booth Luce

National Coalition Against Censorship highlights what is happening in censorship in the arts, entertainment, science and more. There are many interesting links from this site, including a peek at the presidential candidates and a scholarship to the NY Film Academy. Amnesty International provides links to organizations concerned with censorship.

The Forbidden Library has an impressive collection of quotes by politicians, writers, historical figures. The ALA has an informative Q&A on Censorship and Intellectual Freedom.

Albert Camus (1913 – 1950), an Algerian-French writer and one of my favorites wrote:
“A free press can of course be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom it will never be anything but bad.”

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