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Dec 21, 2016

What Is Poetry? Who A Poet?: Bijay Kant Dubey

What Is Poetry? Who A Poet? (A Personal View)
By 
Bijay Kant Dubey

What is poetry? They said it, poetry is music, rhythm and beat of music, poetry is music, the rhyme and rhythm; poetry is music, lyrical thought. But said it not, words, poetry is words, poetry is also words, words, words, that make and unmake. Poetry is an arrangement of words and their alignment; poetry is  a re-arrangement of words, so re-arrange you to make them meaningful.

Poetry is views and ideas, thoughts and opinions. Review them. Poetry is statements, so give you. Poetry is poetry as you think, as we think, they think. Poetry just carries our views and thoughts, words and ideas presented moodily.

Poetry is language and style, the way you present, take to. Poetry is in mannerism. You teach the manners of writing. You break the lines abruptly and present them. Break and say.

Poetry is thought and idea and presentation. Present them. Present you paper, read them what you have written and the poet a presenter, presenter of paper with the paper on poetry.

Poetry is emotion, your emotion for, poetry is passion, the passion of living, so live you, feel you the emotions, passions of life and living, the heartthrob.

Poetry is aroma, poetry is flair, flair for writing. Get tempted, tempted to writing, have the flair for, passion for writing. Flair for writing.

Poetry is poetry. Poetry is music, the music of life and the world, music of thought and idea, dream and sensation, colour and imagery.

Poetry is beats and vibes, jazz and cacophony. Beat in consonance with, beat you something as discordant and jarring and broken.

Poetry is images and pictures. Draw you the image. Poetry is pictures so take you the snaps, draw you the sketches, portraits and silhouettes. Take you the selfies.  Selfies from the digicam. For your sake, for your pleasure, the pleasure of the self.

Poetry is colours, colours, the riot of colours, fast and faded; poetry is dreams, dreams, sweet dreams that see you, see we, see they. Poetry is dreams, dreams, the dreams of a dreamer.

Poetry, poetry, the types of poetry, tenors of it, poetry poetry, poetry and its types. Poetry lyrical, musical, rhythmic, poetry beat and jazzy. Poetry, poetry, the poetry of life, life and the world. Poetry musical, lyrical; poetry rhythmic, incantatory.

Poetry philosophical, giving the philosophy of life, of life and the world. Poetry abstract and material. Poetry metaphysical, giving the metaphysical vision, of Iife and the world. Poetry material and cosmic, earthly and divine. Poetry spiritual, religious, transcendental, cosmic; poetry theological, allegorical; poetry poetry, the poetry of the aliens, the aliens with the UFOs intercepting, interrupting the people.

 Poetry poetry, rhythmic and vibrational, full of beats, rhythms and cacophonies, vibrating, jarring and musical, sounding and resounding, sometimes dearer to, sometimes monotonous.

Poetry poetry, poetry of life and the world, the music of life and the world. Poetry poetry, material and mundane; earthly and terrestrial.

Poetry social, sociological, poetry economic, describing the economic history, poetry poetry, poetry psychological, psychological and penetrating, poetry geographical, telling of cartography and topography, poetry geographical, poetry material, financial, town and planning.

Poetry poetry, poetic, poetical, the art of poetry, the craft of, the art and craft of, writing and of poetry, the art and craft, the craft and art of poetry, poetry poetry, the poetry of poetic and writing, the history of poetry.

Poetry poetry, the love of poetry, the love of art and culture, art and culture and society, love of letters, letters, .love letters, writing the poetry of freedom, freedom and liberty, freedom, of freedom, freedom of speech and expression, where the mind is free and without fear and the swans taking the flights, the swans of imagination.

Poetry love, .love, old love, love letters, letters, the letters, the letters of heart, loving and writing, loving and writing, writing and writing, writing and loving, writing and loving, taking to one’s heart and soul, the letters of heart, letters of soul.

Poetry poetry, poetry, the poetry of life and the world. Poetry poetry, poetry architectural, love of art and architecture, with plans and designs, columns and pillars, poetry poetry, poetry sculptural, full of sculptures depicted as myths and motifs, flowers in stones, carved and chiseled, the stone carvings and inscriptions and terracotta plates.

Poetry poetry, getting poetical, going poetical, poet and poetry, poetry and poet and creativity, the sense of creativity, poetic sense and justice, poetic rule and canon. Poetry poetry, in being poetic, poetic and poetical; poetry poetry, the poetry of life and the world.

Poetry poetry, sensation, poetic sensation, feel you, sense you the sensation, the sensation, the sensation and its quiver, the fire and frenzy of it, the fire and fever of writing, putting, putting down the unputdownable.

Catch the fire, fire and fever of frenzy, catch, catch the fire, the fire and flame of writing, the fever, the fever and frenzy of madness, madness poetical, madness poetic and vision you from earth to heaven, heaven to earth, wherefrom comes the sun and go there where the sun is.

Poetry poetry, poetry is imagination, poetry poetry, poetry is thought and idea and reflection, reflect you, poetry poetry, poetry is dream and vision so vision you, taking the visionary glides. Poetry is poetry, vision and truth, truth and vision.

Poetry is poetry, poetry beauty, goodness, truth, what it is beautiful is but truth and truth goodness so poetry an embodiment of the all three, truth, beauty and goodness. But forget you not the ugly which but the other side of the picture in search of beauty.

Poetry our history, art and culture, history of art and culture, poetry history of history, art and culture, thought and tradition. Poetry our temperament and we poetic, poetic and poetical, poetry our mood and moodily take we the words in a mood to think and opine, review and reminisce, remember and brood over.

Poetry is a dream and dreamers are we, dreaming sweetly, seeing sweet dreams, sweet dreams as well as nightmares where the goblins, genii and ghosts keep frightening; poetry poetry, sweet dreams and nightmares, good and bad, bad and good dreams.

Poetry poetry, aquatic and marine-view, of the rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes and water bodies, the seas and dams and bridges, the marshes with the pink, white and blue lilies, the ponds with, the water herons fishing in the muddy pond all day long, in the marshy plot the white cow, the white lily and the white stork looking lovelier an image, a picture.

Poetry is imagery, imagery full of scenes and sights, scenic and landscapic, landscapic and scenic, so lovely, so beautiful, full of panoramic view. Poetry natural scenery painted against the backdrop of sunrise, dawn break, twilight, the rising sun and the setting sun radiating and glowing red. A night full of heavily-scented kaaminis, but under the moonlight.

Poetry of man and machines, machines and man, write we, the poetry of modern man dependent on machines, robots doing the jobs for him and he sitting as a master; the mannequins kept in the glass house showrooms failing original beauties.

Poetry poetry, of the goldsmiths, blacksmiths and coppersmiths, poetry of jewellers, ornamental, making the anklets of nautch girls, necklaces; making Buddhas, Buddhas of peace, statues, statues of the ashtadhatu, eight metals.

Poetry ethical, mythical, poetry didactic, full of ethics, myth and mysticism. The myths of life and world want we to divulge, but still clueless; the myths of light and darkness want we to delve into, but how to, say you?

Poetry poetry and the poet a lover madly after, waiting for impatiently, restlessly with the heart beating fast, the heartache raking him badly, thinking of the dream girl and her love letters, love at first sight. Poetry as the sighs of love; poetry as heartaches, heartbeats, heartthrobs.

Poerty the art of loving, bird watching, flower seeing, see you the birds dancing, hopping and playing, flowers cackling . The aromatic seulis, kursis, kaaminis, champas, cchatims are there to enthrall you with their sweet fragrance, the dew-smeared tiny seuli  blooms lying fallen in the winter morning. Poetry as dahlias, pansies, salvias, petunias, chrysanthemums, calendulas, poppies, asters.

Poetry as bakul, asoka, gulmohur, palash, amaltash and jarul clusters of tree blooms, the clusters hanging by as wreaths of flowers. The cchatim tree blooms too heavily scented. 

Poetry earthly, real, down to realties; poetry imaginary not, realistic, down to realities, earthly values. Poetry poetry, of this life and world, poetry divine not, earthly, mundane, humane. Poetry of scavengers, sweepers, cleaners, write I, the cleaners cleaning the urinals and toilets.

Poetry poetry, of the road makers, those who make the roads, bituminous roads under heat and dust, heating the coal tar, mixing with concrete chips, braving heat and smokes, fire and flames to build it under the heat of the scorching sun. Poetry of the tillers, workmen, write we and without them where to find poetry? Poetry is poetry, of the tillers working in the fields, ploughing and tilling the lands as for crops, to quell the hunger of the belly with barleys.

Poetry poetry, modern, post-modern, contemporary; poetry modern, modernistic, post-modern and up-to-date, poetry prosaic and jarring, broken and patched up, darned and tagged, inclusive of the twentieth century and the twenty-first century.

Poetry linguistic and manneristic; poetry phonetic and transcribed, stressed upon the manner of pronunciation, written in imitation of Western style and manner of expression. Poetry bombastic, verbose and terse; poetry simple and lucid.

Poetry rural and pastoral, of the countryside, of the people dwelling in thatched houses, mud houses with the sheds full of cows, goats, sheep and ducks. The small girls with the small goats into their lap, how lovely is it to look at holding them!

Poetry of the skyscrapers, urban space and metropolis and megacities, cities and towns, busy, fast and active with no time to talk, no time to think, life spending as commuters, coming from the workplace and going, coming and going, going and coming boarding the train. With fly overs, parks, picnic spots, shopping malls, bus terminuses, airports, platforms, stations, discotheques with disco jockeys, F.M. radio stations, theatres taking our moments away.

Poetry poetry, catching the rhythm of life, rhythm of speech, the vibe of lived, the vibe of the urban world, the Iron Man not, the Spider Man not, but the Space Man. Plugging the wires into the ears, he hearing music, chatting while going on road or moving; on the Internet he doing Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp.

Poetry eco-centric, vibrating with and echoing, reminding us of the impending danger lurking in terms of Environmental pollution, ecological disaster, global warming, climate change, atomic summer and acid rain, deforestation taking a toll upon life, social forestry needed to change the scenario.

Poetry romantic and romanticism, dreamy and colourful, imaginative and fanciful; poetry poetry, romantic, dreamy, colourful, imaginative and fanciful. Poetry romance and romanticism; dream and dreaming. Poetry of flowers, poetry of dreams, poetry of beautiful girls.

The foreigner blondes and belles I saw them at the airport, the crew men, airhostesses foreigner talking in their tongues and speeches which but I could not understand, just saw them, saw them, so lovelier to look at and attractive and charming, English, American, Australian, French, German, Italian, Dutch; Ukrainian, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese; Bavarian, Austrian, Serbian, Croat; Japanese, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Tibetan, Burmese; Azerbaijani, Mongol, Tajik, Uzbek, I saw them, saw them, but could not, could not talk to. I saw so many misses from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, but I could not, could not kiss them. The girls from Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, but could not hear Afrikaans music.

I had a desire to see the girls from the Northeast of India serving as the airhostesses of the flights taking off from there, I mean the Naga, Manipuri, Mizo, Sikkimese, Assamese, Bodo, Karbi. The promising hostesses from Assam, Sikkim, Nagaland, Arunachal, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, I saw them, but could not forget them, took the pictures with me along. Together with them admired I the Nepali, Tibetan, Ladakhi lasses for regional flights, cute village girls in Ladakh saw I, viewed I going far from my Aryan view for the first time.

Bavarian, Albanian, Czech, Slovak girls saw I them at the airport, seeing them, hearing their speeches, marking the tongues, their dress and costumes, attire and manner, I too turned global, felt I to be closer to them by being a restaurateur, an interpreter, a cabin attendant, a guard and thought I living near the port. Frankly speaking, I could not resist my temptation from having a look at them passing. I could not, could not.

I saw the burquawallis, in the burqua and purdah, Miss Purdahwalli, Miss Ghumtawalli, in the hijab and the niqab, hidden from top to bottom, head to toe, I could not see her, see her, but presumed the eyes  to be .lustrous. Though had the desire to ask, but could ask about her identity and nationality taking her to be orthodox and conservative. A young maiden in the dark blackly veil standing before me and viewing through the latticed clothing, but with the sticky, lustrous eyes and luscious lips, glimpsed I, peeped I into. My shadow, walking shadow was she, my genii, calling me, leaving me not behind, wherever go you I shall, said I, I shall not leave you, mistress, my ghost, my shadow, said I to myself, the girl I saw, saw with love.

Poetry poetry, personal, impersonal, about tours, travels, visits; poetry poetry, a visit to travel destinations, resorts and beaches, taking tours around the globe becoming a globe-trotter, a traveler travelling, taking journeys to.

Poetry poetry, the theme and matter of it the same. There is no change in it, nothing to deviate and digress from. Poetry is poetry, a feeling of heart, an emotion fitful; an expression passionate, passionate about poetry, passionate about life.

And the poet as a lover and poetry his love. As we cannot, what love is so is poetry, we cannot, what poetry is. Poetry is poetry as you see it, we see it. Poetry is emotion and feeling, feeling and emotion; poetry is thought and idea, knowledge and wisdom.

Poetry is broad and encompassing, the range and dimension of it very vast, vast and vaster, all-inclusive, nothing exclusive, all-inclusive, not exclusive, including it all, excluding it not. Poetry multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary; poetry multi-cultural. Poetry arts and humanities; poetry science, write you the poetry of science. 

Poetry a news matter; poetry occasional, eventual, pertaining to events, happenings and incidents. Poetry as news, newspaper-clippings and cuttings with the news items, matters poetized.

In this of science and technology when man has reached the frontiers, the globe has shrunken into the palm of the man and we talking about the global village and its positioning on the world map, going from one village to another to do the bazaar work with the mobile hand phone set into the hands.

Even in the debris of the terrorist bombings, the world fraught with modern wars and horrors, discerning the fanatical mind-set and approach, think I development and novelty in thought and idea rather than sticking to one’s old and dead customs and beliefs rather friction and fissure want we harmony and adjustment. If we cannot create, why to destroy the beautiful world made by God?

I find the refugee girl going, uncouth and clumsy just like the nomad, but like my daughter devastated by mindless bombings and mad fundamental provocations. Seeing her going, the refugee girl on the paths  unknown and untaken so far, I lift her to my home to give shelter and refuge and here lies my  affection, the affection of my heart.

Under the canopy of the war-torn, war-ravaged and ravished world, torn and dazed, devastated and destroyed, how to save humanism? But the refugee girl comes to my rescue rescuing in my emotional crisis as the gift, unknown gift from god the Almighty.

As write I the poetry, the poetry of joining hearts, not breaking hearts and my job is to stitch, not to break, to join not to break; the poetry of connection, connection and relation, mutual contact and relation. A joiner of hearts lie I here, not a breaker, a breaker of hearts as join I, join I the heart, break I not.

Who am I, where am I, what my identity, where my home?, who to answer, reply the queries, who am I, what my name, where my home?, what my identity, what my name?, where to go finally, what the pathway end?, who to say to me, answer me back?

Poetry existential, poetry nihilistic; poetry questioning our existence, telling of our presence, sojourn, short stay; poetry of the vacuum, space and nothingness what lies it here, nothing, nothing, what hereafter.

Poetry poetry, poetry of faith and doubt, doubt questioning faith and faith in crisis, never-never logical and reasonable. Poetry poetry, what can it, what has it? With merely thinking, what can man do?

Poetry poetry, neither leftist nor rightist, communize it not with the red flags fluttering and embossed with the hammer, sickle and wheat sheaves, Reds marching, protesting, demonstrating, gheraoing, giving deputations agenda-wide for grabbing power, the power-crazy, power-hungry people. The rightists go you not to extremes in interpreting nationalism, pan-nationalism as you too are not good. As a man I am but a liberal.

Poetry political and the poet a politician, with bills and agenda, suppose a politician writes poetry or a man of literature turns into a politician. Poetry of movements, revolutions, rebellions, overthrows of power and establishments, bloodshed and violence I favour it not.

But if you ask me, what is more important, poetry or science, I shall say it science as the poets can just dream, dream and dream, can never materialize into reality, but the scientists do it with their brain-work.

Is poetry dying in the modern age?, I cannot say it, has poetry declined or  not? But only one thing that I can say is this that the poets are readers, poets are writers, readership has definitely declined, who has time to read poetry in this age of the search for bread and butter?

The fanatics I can never bear with, the orthodox and the conservative people, those who strictly adhere to their faith and belief, the medieval men. There is nothing as that to give priority to masculine prowess. Mena and women are all equal to me in my eyes. And fanaticism is but a type of madness and all those who fanatical are the mad-mad people. So, avoid them avert your gaze from.

A poet of reasoning faculty, logical thinking and reasonable approach am I, taking to logic and reasoning in confidence before I arrive at as because superstitions have wreaked havoc. An iconographer, an iconoclast I am believing in iconography and iconoclasm, making and re-making, making and breaking and re-making to create.

The poems come to me as the train bogies tumbling down in their trail, scrambling for, covering a distance, the train, train coming, covering a distance, the train, train of thought and idea, imagery and dream and reflection it approaching the station, visible from a distance, chugging closer to, whistling and coming, gathering pace and covering the distance to reach the platform to halt.

What in karma, what in my dharma, I know it not, my karam-dharam, this the dharma-shankat, which feel I, brood over my wrongdoing, my good action, which but will go with me and my poetry of  my karma and dharma and their calculation. What it is in my destiny, I shall have to bear, what it in my lot; what in my  bhoga, suffering, as I sow so I reap.

O karmayogin, move on, move on, on the path of .life! Your karma is your dharma, you go on doing your job, you go on , go on doing your karma, your dharma. Move on, move on, on the path of life, you are all alone, alone, all alone, O karmayogin! In your karma lies it your dharma. The poetry of karam-dharam. O activist, do you the action!


Dec 15, 2016

The Long History of Censorship: Mette Newth

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The Long History of Censorship

Mette Newth
Norway, 2010

Censorship has followed the free expressions of men and women like a shadow throughout history. In ancient societies, for example China, censorship was considered a legitimate instrument for regulating the moral and political life of the population. The origin of the term censor can be traced to the office of censor established in Rome i 443 BC. In Rome, as in the ancient Greek communities, the ideal of good governance included shaping the character of the people. Hence censorship was regarded as an honourable task. In China, the first censorship law was introduced in 300 AD.

Censorship: A Global and Historical Perspective
This is true Liberty when free born men
Having to advise the public may speak free,
Which he who can, and will, deserv's high praise,
Who neither can nor will, may hold his peace;
What can be juster in a State then this?
                          Euripides

Perhaps 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. 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 task in the best interest of the public, is still upheld in many countries, for example China. This notion was advocated by the rulers of the Soviet Union (USSR), who were responsible for the longest lasting and most extensive censorship era of the 20thCentury.

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. Nevertheless, he was careful to point out that free speak was a choice.

Free speech: A Challenge to Religious Power in Europe
Free speech, which implies the free expression of thoughts, was a challenge for pre-Christian rulers. It was no less troublesome to the guardians of Christianity, even more so as orthodoxy became established. To fend off a heretical threat to Christian doctrine church leaders introduced helpful measures, such as the Nicene Creed, promulgated in  325 AD. This profession of faith is still widely used in Christian liturgy today. As more books were written and copied and ever more widely disseminated, ideas perceived as subversive and heretical were spread beyond the control of the rulers. Consequently, censorship became more rigid, and punishment more severe.

The invention of the printing press in Europe in the mid 15th century, only increased the need for censorship. 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 also became a religious battleground.
Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1564)

In western history the very term censorship takes on a whole new meaning with the introduction of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Pope Paul IV ordered the first Index of Prohibited Books in 1559. The Index was issued again 20 times by different popes. The last Indexof Prohibited Books was issued as recently as 1948, and then finally abolished in 1966. These lists of books banned for their heretical or ideologically dangerous content, were issued by the Roman Catholic Church. Zealous guardians carried out the Sacred Inquisition, banning and burning books and sometimes also the authors. The most famous of authors that the Catholic Church banned is undoubtedly Galileo (1633), and the most famous victims of the Inquisition’s trials must be Joan of Arc (1431) and Thomas More (1535).

"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."

 Peruvian historian Pedro Guibovich Pérez
The Lima Inquisition and Book Censorship

The Catholic Church controlled all universities, such as the famous Sorbonne, and also controlled all publications. The Church decreed 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. Consequently, European rulers used systems of governmental license to print and publish to control scientific and artistic expressions that they perceived potentially threatening to the moral and political order of society.

The dual system of censorship created through the close alliance between church and state in Catholic countries was also exported to the colonised territories in the Americas. Philip II of Spain reinstated the Inquisition in 1569 and established the Peruvian Inquisition in 1570 as part of a colonial policy designed to deal with the political and ideological crisis in the Peruvian viceroyalty.

The Dresden Codex (Codex Dresdensis) is one of the surviving Maya Codices written in hieroglyphic script.
The Peruvian Inquisition system was a Spanish blueprint for controlling the import of books. The inquisitorial officers periodically examined ships and luggage in ports, and inspected libraries, bookstores and printing houses. When the Inquisition was established in Peru in 1570, the Tribunal's district ranged from Panama to Chile and Rio de la Plata.
Without a doubt, the Inquisition's censorship in the colonies of the Americas was oppressive and sinister. Nevertheless, it could hardly compare to the Spanish invaders’ destruction of the unique literature of the Maya people. The burning of the Maya Codices in the 16thcentury remains one of the worst criminal acts committed against a people and their cultural heritage, and a terrible loss to the world heritage of literature and language.

The Authority of the Postal Service
Although the art of printing was vital to the dissemination of knowledge, the establishment of a regular postal service was also an important advancement to communication. First established in France in 1464, the postal service soon became the most widely used system of person-to-person and country-to-country communication.

Consequently, the postal service also played a crucial role as an instrument of censorship in many countries, particularly in times of war. The British Empire efficiently employed censorship of mail during the first half of the 20th century. Even in today, the postal service remains a tool of censorship in countries where the import of prohibited literature, magazines, films and etcetera is regulated.

In Europe printing naturally also spurned the development of newsletters and newspapers. The Relation of Strasbourg published in 1609, was regarded as the first regularly printed newsletter. Soon the establishment of newspapers in other European countries followed, catering to a growing public demand for news and information. The first newspaper appeared in 1610 in Switzerland, in the Habsburg territories in Europe in 1620, in England in 1621, in France in 1631, in Denmark in 1634 and Italy in 1636, in Sweden in 1645, and in Poland in 1661. In some regions of India, however, newsletters had been circulated since the 16th century.

The rapid growth of newspapers represented a huge improvement of information sources for the literate peoples of Europe. But it also increased the authorities’ worry that unlimited access to information would be harmful to society and public morals, particularly in times of war or internal crisis.

Thus the Licensing Act of 1662 was enforced without mercy in Britain until after the Great Plague of 1664-65. In Germany, the press was effectively inhibited during the Thirty Years' War (1618-48), through censorship, trade restrictions and lack of paper for printing. Such subtle means of censorship, even today, may effectively hamper the development of the free media in many countries.

John Milton's banned speech "Areopagitica"
The Age of Enlightenment and Freedom of Expression
John Milton targeted the powerful bureaucratic system of pre-censorship practiced in late Medieval Europe in his much disputed speech "Areopagitica" to the Parliament of England in 1644. Milton vigorously opposed the Licensing Act that Parliament passed in 1643. In his noble plea for freedom of the press, Milton also quoted Euripides, adding the weight of the ancient struggle for free expression to his own arguments.

Milton's passionate and strong defence of free expression contributed to the final lapse of the Licensing Act in Britain in 1694. His "Areopagitica" also became one of the most quoted arguments for freedom of expression, and remains today a true beacon of enlightenment.

The 17th and 18th centuries represented a time of reason in Europe. The rights, liberty and dignity of the individual became political issues, subsequently protected by law in many countries. 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) guarantees freedom of speech and the press. It is regarded as the root of the comprehensive protection of freedom of expression in western countries, along with the much quoted statement of 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." 

The National Assembly of France, 1789.
Although censorship lost ground as the most frequently used legal instrument during and after the 18thcentury in Europe, governments maintained laws curbing freedom of expression. Now the restrictive instruments are legislative acts on national security, criminal acts on obscenity or blasphemy, or libel laws.

In the United States, formal censorship never existed. But the libel law could sometimes serve the same purpose; thus American courts became the testing ground for free expression. This was also the case in Britain after the lapse of the Licensing Act in 1694. The courts became the new controllers in many countries that embraced the principles of freedom of expression. Libel laws were often subject to broad interpretations, allowing for continued restraint, harassment, and persecution of artists, journalists and other intellectual critics that challenged 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 19thcentury saw the emergence of an independent press, as censors gradually had to cede to demands for a free press. Yet this was also an age of strict press censorship in countries such as Japan. The first daily newspaper, the Yokohama Mainichi, appeared in 1870 a time when arrests of journalists and suppression of newspapers were all too common.

Also colonial governments, such as Russia and Britain, exercised tight control over political publications in their domains. Examples are Russia in the Baltic, and Britain in Australia, Canada, India and 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. Later in South Africa, however, politics of racial division prevented press freedom. The total suppression during South Africa's Apartheid era was only abandoned in the last decade of the 20th century.

As IFEX and other organizations document, in modern times, restrictions on press freedom continue in many countries in Africa and Asia, Eastern Europe, and 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. Public libraries were expected to act as the benevolent guardians of literature, particularly books for young readers. Consequently this gave teachers and librarians license 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, which boasts the earliest press freedom laws, 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.

Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has remained controversial in the USA because of the author's portrayal of race relations and racial stereotypes.

One of the most stunning examples, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884 UK, 1885 US), was first banned in 1885 in the Concord Public Library (Massachusetts). According Arthur Schlesinger, the author of Censorship - 500 Years of Conflict, Twain's book was still in jeopardy of censorship in 1984.

In spite of the Library Bill of Rights, the library profession's interpretation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, public and school libraries in the US still face demands to remove books of "questionable content" from groups claiming to represent the interest of parents or religious moral codes. However, the libraries themselves have challenged this practice. The American Library Association (ALA), through its Office of Intellectual Freedom, maintains statistics on attempts to censor libraries in various states, and regularly publishes lists of challenged books.

Censorship of libraries is by no means a recent practice. On the contrary, libraries have been the targets of censorship since ancient times. History is littered with facts of destroyed library collections, and libraries themselves have far too often become flaming pyres. As early as 221 BC, the deliberate burning of a library was recorded in China.

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.

"Where books are burned, in the end people will burn." Heinrich Heine
Even in the 20th century, rulers have used the burning and destruction of libraries extensively as warnings to subversives and as a method of ethnic language purging, as was the case in Sarajevo and Kosovo. In 1991 the Serbian government banned Albanian as a language of instruction at all levels of education. During the period 1990-99, all libraries in Kosovo were subjected to the burning or destruction of the Albanian–language collections, according to reports from the joint UNESCO, Council of Europe and IFLA/FAIFE Kosovo Library Mission in 2000. The Serbian government’s deliberate cultural and ethnic cleansing on the brink of a new millennium will stand as a distressful monument to the persistent tradition of destructive censorship.

Censorship in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
The Longest Tradition in the 20th Century
The Russian empire had a long tradition of strict censorship and was slow to adopt the changes that central European countries had implemented a century before. Censorship reforms were started in a single decade of tolerance, from 1855 to 1865 during the reign of Tsar Alexander II. There was a transition from legislation on pre-censorship (determining arbitrarily in advance what may or may not be permitted) to a punitive system based on legal responsibility. During this decade the press enjoyed greater freedom and more radical ideas were voiced. Nevertheless censorship laws were re-imposed in 1866 practically eliminating the basic ideas of the reform. Only half a century later the law of 1905-1906 abrogated pre-censorship. Finally, all censorship was abolished in the decrees of April 27 1917 that the Temporary Government issued.

Sadly the freedom was short lived as the decrees only were in force until October 1917. This began a new, long and extensive era of strict censorship under 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 culture, education and religion were subject to revision, 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 and state. Strict prohibitions imposed on religious bodies and nationalization of all church property followed. In 1922 the central censorship office was established, known for short as Glavlit. Its role was 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 print media to preventive censorship, and to suppress political dissidence by shutting down "hostile" newspapers.

In the early 1920s during the time of Lenin and Trotsky, however, 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 regime's 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 revolution's ideals of equality for all and freedom from slavery and poverty.

Russian artists had embraced the ideals of the European Modernist Movement, already in 1915 forming the visionary Avant Garde aesthetic movement which survived until 1932. Thus the first years of the new order saw a degree of innovation in literature and the arts, in stark contrast to the overall political rigidity of the regime. All leniencies ended with the Stalin regime, during which the censorship system became more elaborate and the methods of purging increasingly sinister. The regime authorized printing, banned publications and prevented the import of foreign books.

The USSR Exported the Glavlit System to Occupied Countries
After a time the USSR imposed its strict censorship system on all occupied countries and satellite-states, many of whom had been subject to the censorship of imperial Russia. When the USSR occupied independent Lithuania in 1940 a "bibliocide" began, lasting in effect until 1989. This period of Soviet dominance was only interrupted in 1941-1944 by the German occupation. The Nazi regime was infamous for their book pyres and deadly censorship in Germany and the German-occupied countries. Nevertheless, the systematic use of the destruction of libraries in the USSR is part of the longest and most extensive censorship in the 20th century.

In the study Forbidden Authors and Publications, Klemensas Sinkevicius describes the strategy of the Soviet censorship that zealous local inspectors performed in occupied Lithuania on behalf of 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", writes Sinkevicius. Sinkevicius’ study for the National Library of Lithuania is the first of its kind in Lithuania. Many of the banned works of Lithuanian writers now exist only in the list of banned and destroyed books. 
WW II – Nazi Germany and Occupied Countries
Literature confiscated during WWII
"From these ashes will rise the phoenix of the new spirit", Goebbels optimistically declared as the flames devoured massive funeral pyres of some 20,000 volumes of offensive books 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, communist or humanist, was fed to the flames.

The German author Heinrich Heine, who warned that burning books would end in burning humans, was sadly right, as proved by Nazi–Germany’s gruesome mass extermination of people. The exterminations included at least 6 million Jews but also Romani, communists, dissidents, and the physically disabled—anyone that deviated from the ideal "Aryan race".

Hitler, the omnipotent Fürer of the Third Reich, also implemented the severe censorship and intolerable propaganda machine of the Nazi regime in all countries occupied during WW II (1940-45). In occupied countries national newspapers, publishing houses and radio stations were taken over at once or shut down (and radios were confiscated). In countries such as Norway strict censorship was put in place, making listening to "foreign" radio as well as producing, reading or disseminating illegal newspapers punishable by death.

Despite the threat of severe punishment, the illegal press flourished in occupied countries, such as Norwaywhere more than 400 newsletters and papers were published by groups of activists recruited from all parts of society. In Denmark 541 illegal newsletters and papers were published. In Denmark as in Norway, members of the illegal groups were executed or died in concentration camps because of their activities. As activists were arrested or fled the country, new volunteers took on the illegal work, keeping the chain of communication unbroken until the end of the war.

The illegal and underground publishing of all suppressed nations represents the most outstanding monuments to the people’s relentless struggle for freedom of expression. Most impressive is the vigorous illegal (samizdat) press and publishing in the former Eastern Bloc countries, during the Soviet and the Nazi reign, representing both a firm stand against brainwashing and against the most devastating consequence of censorship--oblivion. Writers’ manuscripts were smuggled out of countries such as Poland and printed abroad. Moreover classical and contemporary works of foreign writers were translated into Polish and smuggled back into Poland. A similar example of resisting sustained censorship and oppression is resistance during the Apartheid era in South Africa.

Apartheid Censorship in South Africa
To uphold its cruel policy of racism, the Apartheid regime in South Africa (1950-1994) employed severe censorship, torture and killing. The aim was to strangle the South African extra-parliamentary liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC), and apparently to erase public memory. In this respect, the prohibitive policies of the Apartheid regime strongly resemble that of the USSR.

Censorship affected every aspect of cultural, intellectual and educational life in South Africa. Although grimly menacing, the magnitude of the banning of ANC symbols—, buttons, T-shirts and lighters —seemed truly paranoid. Already in 1996 the South African publisher Jacobsen thoroughly compiled and published detailed information about all censored items. The excellent Jacobsen's Index of Objectionable Literaturerestores to memory and documents for posterity all the details of the Apartheid madness.

The tenacious struggle against the Apartheid regime has been the subject of 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 is included in the Beacon for Freedom of Expression database with the gracious consent of the author. Another noteworthy mention is Peter D. McDonald's book The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and its Cultural Consequences (2009) and the impressive companion website. 

"Truth is the first victim in a war"
Throughout its 400-year history, the media has been the first victim in times of war, be it in external or internal conflicts. As a rule, the press has been faced with a choice between gagging and closure. Many respectable newspapers were simply taken over by a country's new rulers, or submitted to becoming their mouthpiece.

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, but no less strict was the censorship of the enemy the USSR. During World War II the press was held in a stranglehold by all countries involved, from Norway to Japan.

In the United States and Britain a clampdown on news coverage was expected, as strict press censorship also had also been applied during World War I. The British and American press and media, often submitting voluntarily to self-censorship, were 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.1

The war of words is less lethal but no less dirty than the war of weapons. Demonizing the enemy and whitewashing one's own cruel deeds while blindfolding the people through rigid censorship have been favoured strategies for many warlords and dictators 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). Despite countless pleas from the international community, Turkey still upholds strict censorship through the Anti–Terror Act of 1991, under the pretext of ensuring national security against "the enemy within",” the Kurdish minority.

The role of media in times of war was starkly demonstrated in the spring of 1999 when the NATO alliance started the campaign of bombing designed to secure peace and human rights, and also force the Yugoslavian government to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The Yugoslavian government which had clamped down on independent national media for almost a decade expelled all foreign media and independent observers from Kosovo. Thus the government guaranteed its unlimited license to kill, terrorize and deport hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. Due to their leader's archaic policy of censorship and propaganda, the Serbian population of Yugoslavia lost all sympathy in international public opinion.

The NATO alliance, however, also 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 Kosovo-Albanian refugees, NATO informed the international media in a manner that the international media has characterized as misleading. NATO'’s 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; nine were murdered 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 that exploded when the Algerian army disrupted the election of the National Assembly in 1992 to prevent what seemed to 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 and 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 became victims of the frenzied slaughter. Only in 1998 did the Algerian government amend their press law, no doubt thanks to the incessant pressure from independent freedom of expression organizations.

One of the many editions of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses

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 liberalized climate for publishing following the Islamic revolution in 1979, the war against Iraq (1981) and the fight against opposition groups within the Islamic Republic gave the government opportunity to introduce strict censorship. When the war ended in 1988 censorship became monopolized by the traditional extremists eager to purge Iranian society of freedom-seekers and dissenters.

In the spring of 1988 the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution (SCCR) issued 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 the charges result in executions. Moreover the wrath of Iran's rulers has impacted non-Iranians, such as the British author Salman Rushdie. In 1988 the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Rushdie, calling on all good Muslims to kill Rushdie and his publishers. His novel The Satanic Verses (1988) caused violent reactions many places in the Muslim world. Rushdie's Japanese translator was stabbed to death in July 1991, and his Italian translator was seriously injured by stabbing the same month. His Norwegian publisher barely survived an attempted assassination in Oslo in October 1993. The Turkish translator was also targeted in July 1993 in Sivas, Turkey, and 37 people died. The fatwa was eased in 1998.

Even though the people of Iran elected a liberal president in two successive elections, for example in 2001, the Guardian Council still holds the reins of power. Furthermore the revolutionary courts 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. Nevertheless, in full view of the media-saturated international community, history has repeated itself, for example in the Yugoslavian territories in the 1990s and in Rwanda in 1994.

Most member countries of the UN have signed the declaration. 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. The reality of human rights in practice often contradicts theory, however.

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 organizations reported violations in almost 120 countries. One hundred eighteen journalists were imprisoned in 25 countries and 24 journalists were murdered. Numerous newspapers, publishers and broadcasters were banned, closed or violently attacked, for example bombed.

Currently most of the serious attacks on freedom of expression are committed in non-democratic countries, struggling democracies or new democracies, for example former East Bloc countries. Even today more than half the world's population still lacks an independent press. Considering how crucial the press is to the process of democratization and transparency of society, and the equally important role that the written word plays for eliminating illiteracy internationally, this is indeed a tragic state of affairs.

While Western and democratic governments and human rights defenders justly criticize the abuses committed in new democracies and non-democratic countries, however, we should not forget the dark history of censorship in Europe and its colonized countries. Likewise we should not ignore the cruel suppression of indigenous cultures, languages and non-written literature for which Europeans also are responsible.

Unfortunately, Western human rights defenders often ignore our shameful past, or fail to criticize our allies for their current abuses of human rights. The lack of criticism in the UN of European censorship—for example the systematic purging of libraries in Southern France by Front National— gives perpetrating governments, such as China or Burma a welcome opportunity to accuse Western countries of one-sided criticism. Furthermore, the "blame –game" that is played in North and South, by rich and poor nations or by Muslims and Christians cannot create or improve a climate of open-minded dialogue.


The painful paradox that history's worst crimes continue to repeat themselves cannot be resolved by creating a database such as the Beacon for Freedom of Expression, but it will provide another tool for enlightenment and action by people. Thus hopefully, Beacon will contribute to ending the violations. 

Thanks to the generous contributions by numerous universities and national libraries, institutions and freedom of expression organizations around 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 for most of the last millennium.

 Each entry of the title and author represents a minute but significant monument to memory. The entire collection of titles in the database represents but a small selection 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. It will grow steadily through the continued joint efforts of its competent partners.

In writing this article I am indebted to a multitude of sources, all of which are documented in the database or linked to this website.

1 See History of the Office of Censorship. Volume II: Press and Broadcasting Div


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