On August 11 th and 12 th 2005 The Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (IFLA/FAIFE) and The Norwegian National Steering Committee for the Beacon for Freedom of Expression Project (BFE) held an IFLA/FAIFE Satellite Meeting entitled: ‘Documenting censorship: Libraries linking past and present - and preparing for the future’. The meeting took place at The Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway two days prior to the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions ( IFLA) World Library and Information Congress.
The focus of the Satellite Meeting was how libraries and information services can challenge censorship by documenting censored books and newspapers. The event attracted 72 participants from the fields of librarianship, journalism, government and publishing, and there was a very international feel to the proceedings – participants came from Botswana, Burma, Cuba, China, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, New Caledonia, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, the Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom.
Following an introduction from the Chair of the IFLA/FAIFE Committee, Professor Paul Sturges, the first day began with presentations from Vigdis Skarstein, the National Librarian of Norway, and Helge Sønneland, from the Norwegian Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs, regarding recent changes in the country’s constitution to protect freedom of expression. Following this came a presentation on the new role of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt by its Director, Ismail Serageldin. Andrew Puddephatt, the Visiting Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights and former Executive Director of Article 19, and Professor Paul Sturges finished the first session by debating the motion “This house believes that freedom of expression necessarily includes the freedom to give offence.”
The second session was introduced by Mette Newth, Chair of the Beacon for Freedom of Expression International Steering Committee, and it presented three case studies documenting censorship. Archie Dick from the University of Pretoria, described censorship during the Apartheid system in South Africa; Nadezha Ryzhak talked about the Spetskhran (literally ‘Departments of special storage’) system of censorship in Russian libraries between the revolution and the end of the cold war; and Kamel Labidi talked about the censorship situations currently facing several Arab countries. The first day ended with a discussion and debate led by Barbara Jones, the University Librarian at Wesleyan University in the US.
The second day of the meeting was dedicated to visions for the future under the headings: Society and freedom of access to information and freedom of expression; How do we safeguard documentation of censorship?; and World Summit on the Information Society: the roles and responsibilities of NGOs and the institutions in society. Two in depth presentations were given as part of this session: Ismail Serageldin gave a superb and wide-ranging presentation on freedom of expression in the digital age and the potential of libraries to safeguard access to information; while Arne Ruth, acclaimed Swedish journalist and writer, talked about the post 9/11 media landscape and the importance of information professionals in ensuring individuals have access to multiple points of view. The remainder of the meeting took the form of a debate moderated by Bob McKee, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the UK and a member of the FAIFE advisory board. The debate, informed by two days of illuminating presentations and audience interventions, as well as conversations in the more informal setting of an evening reception at the Nobel Peace centre, was lively and provocative and formed an appropriate conclusion to a successful meeting.
Speakers and moderators:
• Mr Archie Dick, University of Pretoria, South Africa
• Ms Barbara Jones, University Librarian, Wesleyan University, Olin Library, USA and member of the FAIFE Committee
• Mr Kamel Labidi, journalist and IFEX researcher, Cairo, Egypt
• Dr Geir Lundestad, Director the Nobel Institute, Norway
• Dr Bob McKee, Chief Executive, CILIP, FAIFE Advisory Board Member
• Ms Mette Newth, Chair of the BFE International Steering Committee, Norway
• Mr Andrew Puddephatt, Visiting fellow Centre for the Studies of Human Rights, former Executive Director of Article 19, The UK
• Ms Kay Raseroka President of IFLA, Botswana
• Mr Arne Ruth, Journalist and writer, Sweden
• Ms Nadezhda Ryzhak, Department of Russian Literature abroad or Nina Khakhaleva, Director of Library Resources. Russian State Library, Moscow, Russia
• Dr Ismail Serageldin, Director of Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt
• Ms Vigdis Skarstein, National Librarian of Norway
• Professor Paul Sturges, Loughborough University, The UK and Chair of IFLA/FAIFE
• Dir. Helge Sønneland, Norwegian Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs