HRC calls for end to banned books

| 28/09/2016 | 41 Comments

(CNS): The chair of the Human Rights Commission has said that the local Prohibited Publications Order continues to set a dangerous precedent for censorship and government should focus on encouraging reading not banning literature. In a statement to mark World Banned Books Week, which celebrates freedom of expression, James Austin-Smith pointed out that the censorship of publications without explanation or justification is contrary to the Bill of Rights, and in a world where material is readily available online, banning a selection of publications is futile.

The order, which bans certain books and publications in Cayman, is a disparate collection of works, from socialist periodicals to books about the occult to Madonna’s famous art coffee-table book, Sex.

The banning of literature considered seditious or offensive has always been controversial and Austin-Smith said it was “disproportionate and irrational” as “restrictions on allowing persons to participate fully in their religion or personal expression are unconstitutional and can open government up to liability”.

He said that instead of banning books, government should focus on improving literacy (which the Ministry of Education has indicated is a concern) to encourage critical thinking and an engaged and well-informed society.

“Freedom of expression under Cayman’s Bill of Rights includes ‘freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference’; the censorship of publications, in this case without any explanation or apparent justification, is quite contrary to those rights,” Austin-Smith warned. “Equally, in a world where materials more explicit in nature and articulating a vast range of political and religious views are readily available on the internet, the banning of this small selection of materials is not only hard to comprehend but, ultimately, utterly futile.”

The local prohibited list includes over 130 items that are not allowed to be brought into the islands, though many of them are now out of print. There are also bans on all publications from specific publishers that are no longer in business. The ban largely covers political materials from the US, the former USSR, Canada, the UK, North Korea and China, but the list includes some that are religious in nature, including publications from the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, a sect of Rastafarianism, and certain pornographic publications and books dealing with the occult and magic.

There are no local authors on the list and no local publications are banned but the Human Rights Commission said the order continues to set a “dangerous precedent for censorship of cultural, political and religious expression”, and urged government to rethink is approach to censorship.

The Penal Code Prohibited Publications Order (1998 Revision) can be found in the CNS Library

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Comments (41)

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  1. Hows this for a progressive idea says:

    Just ban the bible. That would solve 90% of the countries issues for free.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I remember going to Hobbies & Books in the evenings after school back in the late 1970’s as a pre teen youngster, on a shelf in the back of the store well tucked away was the inviting Playboy magazine, it took me several evenings to gather up the courage to grab one and look thru it, one afternoon I finally did and after a few minutes getting comfortable with the images a lady who worked there caught me, she angrily grabbed the magazine and gave me two quick slaps to my head and then told me to leave, I boldly returned a few weeks later with confidence that I wouldn’t get caught this time, was I disappointed, my new favorite magazine was not there, Playboy gone forever from the Cayman Islands, up until this day I believe I was the one responsible for having that wonderful magazine banned from the shelves at H&B and across Cayman…. my apologies guys.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Pornhub and redtube has enough free porn online today, anyone trying to smuggle in a hustler or some other x-rated magazine must be still living in the 1950’s and never heard of the Internet, as for the other banned books, a simple Visit to Google and bingo, easy like Sunday morning.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Despite the comments here trying to glorify Mr. Smith’s comments as heroic, anyone who can believe that the comment “INSTEAD of banning books, government should focus on improving literacy” does anything but make Cayman/Caymanians look ignorant/bad, just does not comprehend what they read. According to the Order CNS provided by link, there has been no addition to the list for 23 years. So I fail to see how that has interfered (note the use of the word “instead”) with Government improving literacy. Call for revocation of the Order by all means – but do not try to make believe that Government has been too busy with banning books to concentrate on improving literacy. And I hope no one is believing that to improve literacy, those banned publications are a necessity, or even desirable. I for one agree with those who see that additional sentence in Mr. Smith’s release as insulting.
    A lifelong, Caymanian, champion of reading widely.

  5. Spin-doctor says:

    Freedom of expression is greatly over-rated. I would like to see any and all statements, pronouncements and press releases by any elected member of the LA and any civil servant banned from publication.

    I do agree that it is strange that you can get so-called ‘adult’ channels from the local cable company but can’t buy Playboy magazine.

  6. MM says:

    Read the list; those books can remain banned.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Surprised the Bible not on the list. Fits all the criteria.

  8. Caymanian idiot says:

    Off to the Internet subscription then I go and ordering flows playboy channel at the same time! Should be a fun afternoon. 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      You reliance on pornography might explain your outdated attitude towards women. And that in turn may explain why you have to spend your afternoons watching porn. Keep it classy.

  9. Peeved at large business says:

    More pressing issues the HRC could be addressing and this is what is on their agenda….zzzz get a real job!!

    • Anonymous says:

      I think they all do have “real jobs”, and have you looked at what else they have been doing? What do you do for your community in your spare time? Ubertroll.

    • Anonymous says:

      Shame someone hasn’t censored you.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This type of thing we must remember happens not only in Cayman, only a few years ago when Sarah Palin tried to organise a book burning of the Harry Potter series, as it was about magic

    • SSM345 says:

      Local churches tried to get the Chronicles of Narnia banned at the cinema a few years back……..

    • Anonymous says:

      Remember when the church crazies campaigned against the kids’ movie “Northern Lights” because the sequels in the book series challenged authorised religion? They were genuinely campaigning against a film in case it encouraged children to read. And then maybe think and express a view.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I can see that the list includes the texts of dangerous groups that seek to distort the minds of the impressionable by telling a fictitious version of history as if it was the truth. Although the Bible is not on the list…

  12. Anonymous says:

    As always we are 80 years behind the rest of the world.
    All this stuff can be downloaded.

  13. Human Rights says:

    Thats Human Rights for you. It increases your rights but requires that you throw morality out the window! Your right to porn has become a Human Right

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes. So?

    • Anonymous says:

      That is the point of free speech; the right to say, hear and listen to things that other people strongly dislike. No-one tries to ban middle of the road unobjectionable writings. And Christianity is based on free will, so allowing moral choice rather than banning the choice allows people to exercise moral free will.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t realize there was a ban. I’ve seen that Madonna coffee book in many homes.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Mein Kampf is not on the list or The Anarchists Cookbook.
    So its not all bad.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Is the book Fahrenheit 451 on the list lol, its about this

  17. Anonymous says:

    Indicative of the fear of the capital owning elite and the churches of the people exercising free thought. Politicians criticised the Communist regimes for their censorship of press, and there is a ban on their telling of the their own history. Merely ironic or sinister outdated control.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Long overdue considering in the internet age we are just clicks away from the material anyway.

  19. Anonymous says:

    well done hrc!….yet again highlighting the ignorance and hypocrisy of caymanian society…..
    austin-smith for premier!

    • Anonymous says:

      If Caymanian society is too ignorant or hypocritical for you, by all means please take a flight to any destination in the world of your choice and remain there. But I guess you don’t want to leave your tax-free lifestyle here. I am sick and tired of people degrading this country. Nobody is forcing you to stay here against your will.

      • Anonymous says:

        @3:07am – seriously is that the best that you all can come up with? “Leave”

        How about if you disagree with someone try engaging them in an intelligent discussion? But I won’t hold my breath.

        p.s. – In response to anticipated comments…..I came here by pain, not plane (your phrase) so I’m not going anywhere.

        • Anonymous says:

          Funny, Caymanians think that if you have a different opinion to them you must not be Caymanian.
          Guess what people!! We do exist! And we are not all like you.
          4th Generation born and bred

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry I missed the bit that said this person was not a born & bred Caymanian!

      • Anonymous says:

        Pathetic 3.07…that’s it just stick your head in the sand and hide away from the quite correct view that censorship is pointless, unless you are a dictator. Is that what you sayin’ we should be?

  20. Anonymous says:

    Yes, we’re still in the category of post-Stalinist USSR!

  21. Len says:

    This is one of the most logical things I have read recently. To think that banning printed material, in this day and time, is absurd! To try and control people by what you disallow them to have access to is wrong. We should be encouraging reading and thinking. Not limiting it!

  22. Anonymous says:

    In the mid-nineties my copy of “Frank” magazine was seized at the Post Office, identified as porn. Weird, because it was a satire on CND politics, and I’m sure wasn’t on any lists.

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