Why Jane Fonda Is Banned in Beirut
"Why Jane Fonda Is Banned in Beirut: Anti-Semitism leads to startling censorship in Lebanon." Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2009, Opinion. By WILLIAM MARLING
Censorship is a problem throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Though a signatory of the Florence Agreement, the Academy of Islamic Research in Egypt, through its censorship board al-Azhar, decides what may not be printed: Nobel Prize winner Naghib Mahfouz's "Awlad Haratina" (The Sons of the Medina) was found sacrilegious and only printed in bowdlerized form in Egypt in 2006. Saudi Arabia sponsors international book fairs in Riyadh, but Katia Ghosn reported in L'Orient that it sends undercover agents into book stores regularly.
Works that could stimulate dialogue in Lebanon are perfunctorily banned. "Waltz with Bashir," an Israeli film of 2008, is banned -- even though it alleges that Ariel Sharon was complicit in the Sabra and Shatilla massacres. According to the Web site Monstersandcritics, however, "Waltz with Bashir" became an instant classic in the very Palestinian camps it depicts, because it is the only history the younger generation has. But how did those copies get there?
The answer is also embarrassing. Just as it ignores freedom of circulation, Lebanon also ignores international copyright laws. Books of all types are routinely photocopied for use in high schools and universities. As for DVDs, you have only to mention a title and a pirated copy appears. "Slumdog Millionaire" was available in video shops before it opened in the U.S.
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