27
March
2014
|
08:47 PM
America/New_York

AAP Supports Publishers in Fight for Free Expression in India

US Publishers Call for Reform of Indian Penal Code

Last month, the decision by Penguin Books India to withdraw from publication the Indian edition of The Hindus: An Alternative History, by American scholar Wendy Doniger — after a four-year court battle — drew extensive media coverage.

At the time, the publisher said: “(We believe that) the Indian Penal Code and in particular 295A of that code will make it increasingly difficult for any Indian publisher to uphold international standards of free expression without deliberately placing itself outside the law. This is, we believe, an issue of great significance not just for the protection of creative freedoms in India but also for the defense of fundamental human rights.”

In solidarity with our publishing colleagues in India and as a member of the international publishing community committed to the defense of free expression, the Association of American Publishers today issued the following statement:

“The Association of American Publishers is seriously concerned about the future of artistic and intellectual freedom in India in the wake of the highly publicized attacks by Hindu fundamentalist groups on books by the American scholar Wendy Doniger.

“These attacks were the latest in a series of incidents sanctioned and encouraged by Sections 295a and 153a of the Indian penal code, which outlaw acts ‘intended to outrage religious feelings’ and would subject to fines or imprisonment anyone who, through written or verbal expression, promotes ‘disharmony or feelings of enmity’ between religious or racial groups or other disparate communities. The Doniger attacks illustrate that such laws are rife with the possibility of abuse and are perfect weapons in the hands of those who would stifle free expression.

“As the novelist Hari Kunzru said in an interview with The New York Times, ‘It’s very easy to claim offense and very hard to prove that someone else wasn’t offended.’ In the belief that these repressive laws have no place in a country with a proud tradition of democratic pluralism, we urge our publishing colleagues in India and around the world to join in pressing the Indian government for their repeal.

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The Association of American Publishers (AAP) represents about four hundred member organizations including major commercial, digital learning and education and professional publishers alongside independents, non-profits, university presses and scholarly societies. We represent the industry’s priorities on policy, legislative and regulatory issues regionally, nationally and worldwide. These include the protection of intellectual property rights and worldwide copyright enforcement, digital and new technology issues, funding for education and libraries, tax and trade, censorship and literacy. Find us online at www.publishers.org or on twitter at @AmericanPublish.