Sunday, August 20, 2006

Cuban Libraries and IFLA

Friends of Cuban Libraries reports that an independent library patron was recently harassed by the secret police:

One of the patrons who visits the Gastón Baquero Independent Library, located in the city of Banes, was intercepted by the police on August 5, according to the library director, Martha Díaz Rondón.

The officials asked the patron for his identity card and made a note of it; they told the library visitor that this information would be sent to the chief of his zone of residence, so that an official warning would be issued, and that he would be prosecuted for the crime of "social dangerousness" if he continues visiting the library.

The Gastón Baquero Library is well-established in the community, and a large number of people visit it to find reliable and uncensored information, but the secret police send agents to harass people visiting the library.

(emphasis added-DD)

Sadly, this incident is just one example of the Cuban dictatorship's extensive campaign against intellectual freedom. The excellent Freadom web site has done a terrific job of documenting the Castro regime's long and disgraceful record of book burning and censorship. Their blog recently posted an overview from Amnesty International on the human rights situation in Cuba. A number of independent librarians are among the prisoners of conscience currently imprisoned by the regime:

As of May 2006 there were still 72 Prisoners of Conscience (POCs) in Cuba, according to Amnesty International. Sixty of them were detained as part of a March 2003 crackdown, which has been called the biggest crackdown on political descent in Cuba in a decade. At that time, at least five dozen people from different provinces across the country were detained in a major police operation to silence those engaged in non-violent freedom of expression and association. Within days of their detention the new prisoners were tried on vague charges in a process that did not meet fair trial standards, and most were given sentences as long as 20 years.

Today, IFLA began its annual convention in Seoul, South Korea. On August 24th, IFLA's Committee on Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) will discuss resolutions proposed (PDF) by the Latvian and Lithuanian library associations. Both resolutions forthrightly condemn the Cuban dictatorship's thoroughgoing censorship and call for the release of the imprisoned librarians. A number of American librarians have called upon ALA to support the adoption of these resolutions. While I doubt my voice carries much weight with the association, I hereby join these colleagues in asking ALA to take a stand against Cuba's suppression of intellectual freedom.


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