Banned books at book fairs is nothing new, and we are mostly eager to condemn such practices, in the name of free speech and freedom to publish.
But where do we stand when it comes to censoring guest speakers?
Jaraguá do Sul, a city in the interior of Santa Catarina, Brazil, has announced the line-up for its 13th book fair, set to run August 8-18, but a husband and wife guest speaker team are proving less than popular with would-be fair-goers, according to Brazil’s premier publishing news site, PublishNews.
Journalist Miriam Leitão and husband sociologist and political scientist Sérgio Abranches were billed to speak at the event, but a petition of 3,000 signatures has indicated they are not entirely welcome thanks to their,
ideological bias and positioning.
On social media calls to action to prevent the couple attending the event have ranged from egg-throwing to death threats.
Event organiser Carlos Henrique Schroeder this week bowed to pressure and has removed the speakers from the list, not because he wishes to censor their perspective but,
because (he) cannot guarantee their safety.
He said the event had faced many difficulties,
from scarcity of financial resources to floods … but never in all its history has the festival of literature been attacked by the choice of its invited guests.
For anyone curious as to the background of the censored couple, check out this article from Brazil’s GGN.
Taking a step back, this is a difficult subject. On the one hand we all deplore censorship, and we all deplore threats of violence.
Book fairs in other parts of the world have seen participants murdered, and the fair organisers are right to take action to safeguard the guests they invited, even if it meant telling them not to come.
At which point we might well ask, should they have been invited in the first place?
And therein lies the bigger question: If these guests had not been invited in the first place because it was felt their views would not be welcome, wouldn’t that be an act of censorship also?
At which point I defer to a post on the subject of censorship in relation to the Erbil International Book Fair in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Censorship is a balancing act, not a line in the sand.