The pro-castro faction in control of the American Library Association continues to cover-up the censorship practiced by the Cuban government. This ALA leadership refuses to even acknowledge let alone support Cuba’s jailed independent librarians, or to condemn book burning by Cuban authorities.
Press release sent from Robert Kent of Friends of Cuban Libraries:
ALA “SPIKES” SPEAKER CRITICISM
Critics charge that comments by Anthony Lewis, a distinguished guest speaker at the American Library Association’s January conference in Philadelphia, are being censored by the ALA. At a sold-out ALA conference event held at the National Constitution Center on Jan. 14, Lewis spoke about his long career defending civil liberties and his new book, “Freedom for the Thought That We Hate.”
A notable feature of Anthony Lewis’s speech was his call for the ALA to defend members of an independent library movement who are imprisoned in Cuba. In a challenge to government control of information, since 1998 volunteers in Cuba have opened more than 200 libraries offering public access to uncensored books. Following secret police raids and one-day trials, several of the librarians are serving 20-year jail terms. Cuban courts have ordered the burning of book collections seized from the independent librarians, including classics such as Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”
“I just urge you not to take that lightly,” Anthony Lewis told his ALA audience. “I think there can’t be anything worse than putting librarians in prison because of their being librarians and giving people books to read. So please don’t ignore the issue. That’s from my point of view, even if you don’t like the librarians or you don’t like Cuba or whatever it is you don’t like, its ‘freedom for the thought that we hate.'” In a question-and-answer period following his speech, Lewis added: “Cuban librarians who have been in prison are entitled to the utmost support from this organization.”
Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International PEN are demanding the release of the jailed library workers.
In contrast, the ALA has refused to condemn the repression of the Cuban librarians or the court-ordered burning of their books. Critics say the ALA, which often takes a stand on international issues concerning intellectual freedom, is guilty of hypocrisy on the Cuba issue. The critics assert that the ALA’s “refusal to take meaningful action” on Cuba is due to the seizure of key ALA offices by a pro-Castro faction which refuses to condemn or even acknowledge the existence of censorship, library raids, book burning and a ban on Internet access in Cuba.
In post-conference coverage of the Philadelphia event, no ALA publication has mentioned Anthony Lewis’s criticism of the library group’s Cuba policy. Two ALA journalists were present at Anthony Lewis’s Jan. 14 speech, and according to a witness they promised to report on Lewis’s Cuba-related comments. But the only mention of Cuba in ALA publications since the conference has been a link in “AL Direct,” the ALA’s online magazine, to a reprint of a 2-year old article attacking Cuba’s independent librarians and their defenders abroad. Critics question the accuracy of the article’s author, John Pateman, who was awarded a medal by the Cuban government for his past denials of human rights violations on the island; Pateman also denies that the Khmer Rouge were responsible for mass killings in Cambodia.
In addition to Anthony Lewis at the January conference, other speakers at past ALA conferences have spoken out on the ALA’s Cuba controversy. Andrei Codrescu, Ray Bradbury ( the author of “Fahrenheit 451”) and Madeleine Albright have also used ALA conferences as a venue to call for an end to library repression in Cuba. But critics complain that “entrenched pro-Castro zealots” in the ALA have steadfastly ignored appeals on behalf of Cuba’s embattled independent library movement.
“It is sadly ironic,” said Robert Kent, a spokesperson for the Friends of Cuban Libraries, a support group for the jailed Cubans, “that zealots within the ALA, an organization which upholds opposition to censorship as its highest ideal, are suppressing comments made by Anthony Lewis at, of all places, an ALA conference. Sadder still, many rank-and-file ALA members are completely oblivious to this travesty of justice and the need to restore the ALA’s damaged honor and integrity.”