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Debates & Discourse

Peter Ronald deSouza

Aussies to ban books on terror The Australian government plans to outlaw books that advocate terrorism in a move that publishers say raises serious concerns about free speech. Federal Attorney-general Philip Ruddock announced that his state counterparts had agreed to consider legislative changes for the purpose. He said that the changes were part of the ‘zero tolerance’ approach to terrorism. ‘Books, games, videos anything that is seen to be advocating a terrorist act would be refused classification, therefore cannot be marketed. (AFP) This small report in a newspaper caught our eye. We invited Peter Ronald D’Souza, a political scientist, M.S. Ganesh, a lawyer and Parsa Venkateswar Rao Jr, a mediaperson, to comment. Here is what they had to say . . . — Editors   When ‘Freedom of Expression’ is a Threat to Society Peter Ronald deSouza The innocuous news item that the Government of John Howard of Australia is considering legislative changes banning publications that advocate terrorism has raised a few eyebrows. This is not because John Howard has shown a deep commitment to Human rights and hence this decision seems out of step, one has only to recall his treatment of the Afghan boat people some years ago when he confined them to isolated islands as if they were criminals and not victims of war and also his recent decision to deny visas to AIDS patients as if they were the lepers of the Old Testament, but because the new decision to ban takes the government’s scope for censorship to new levels inconsistent with a free society.   The newspapers have reported in April 2007 that the Federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, held that the existing laws allowed banning only if a publication was deemed to directly ‘promote, incite or instruct’ readers to engage in terrorist acts were felt to be inadequate to meet the threat of terrorism and hence a new law was being considered that would ban books that simply advocate terrorism. Anything that the censors feel glorifies terrorism is to be outlawed. The newspapers report that ‘books, games, videos, anything that is seen to be advocating a terrorist act would be refused classification, (and) therefore could not be marketed.’   While terrorism is a scourge that must be combated, and its supporters challenged and dismissed by the court of public opinion, banning of books seems to be the worst way of doing it. In a world saturated by words, from the ...

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