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spacer.gif   BUSH ADMINISTRATION RESTRICTS EDITORS
Posted by : cj on Thursday, December 02, 2004 - 11:14 AM
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Poetry Gossip: Click On Headlines Publishing some poetry is now against the law.

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The Bush Adminstration has given a stern warning to American publishers. Publishers will face grave legal consequences if they edit poetry from Iran (as well as Cuba, Libya, North Korea and other nations with which trade is banned) on the grounds that such editing amounts to "trading with the enemy." Laws and regulations prohibiting trade with various nations generally apply to items like oil, wheat, nuclear reactors and even tourism, but according to the Bush Administration these laws also apply to grammar, spelling and punctuation.

According to a recent advisory letter from the Treasury Department, Americans who publish poetry or prose from a country under a trade embargo are forbidden to do the following: reorder paragraphs or sentences, correct syntax or grammar, replace "inappropriate words," or add illustrations. Several major publishers, editors and translators were recently informed that, from now on, only publication of "camera-ready copies of manuscripts" would be allowed. For example, correcting typographical errors (in a poem submitted by an artist living in Iran) is punishable by a fine of up to $500,000 and 10 years in jail. A Treasury Department spokeswoman, Tara Bradshaw, explains that banned activities also include "collaboration on and editing of the manuscripts, the selection of reviewers, and facilitation of a review resulting in substantive enhancements or alterations to the manuscripts."

From now on, publishers will need to get "U.S. government permission" to publish and edit the work of poets who live in countries with "oppressive regimes." Although publishers may seek a license from the government that would allow for some editing, First Amendment specialists are outraged, calling the new rules "censorship" and "a prior restraint."

In a recent New York Times article, Nahid Mozaffari, an editor specializing in literature from Iran, calls the implications staggering: "A story, a poem, an article . . . or any other area of knowledge cannot be translated, and even if submitted in English, cannot be edited in the U.S. This means that the publication of the PEN Anthology of Contemporary Persian Literature that I have been editing for the last three years would constitute aiding and abetting the enemy." The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control does not dispute Mozaffari's assessment of the situation. According to a letter the office sent in September, "Such activity would constitute the provision of prohibited services to Iran."

Since 1988, Congress has prohibited the executive branch from interfering "directly or indirectly" with the trade of literature or informational materials. This exception regarding trade embargos, known as the Berman Amendment, was first sponsored by Representative Howard L. Berman (D). Referring to what he calls the Bush Administration's "very bizarre" interpretation of the amendment (that literature may be published but not edited), Berman says, "It is directly contrary to the amendment and to the intent of the amendment."

Although there has been no prosecution yet for "criminal editing," the mere fact that the rules exist have scared some publishers into rejecting works from Iran and other countries.

--Story by C. J. Laity
Source of Information: The New York Times

 
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