Sunday, November 28

The confiscation of a book on Ghannouchi and another on “the failed state” .. Have the censorship scissors returned to the book fair in Tunisia?

In a statement to Al-Jazeera Net, the director of “Dar Al-Kitab Publishing”, Habib Al-Zoghbi, expressed his deep dissatisfaction with the fact that an employee of the Ministry of Culture had booked a copy of the researcher Rabeh Al-Kharaifi’s book “Corruption and the Failed State… Tunisia as a Model” on the pretext of distorting the image of Tunisia.

Tunisia- Incidents of withdrawal and confiscation of books from the Tunis International Book Fair have sparked fears of a return to censorship of literary works, and further restrictions on freedoms, which human rights advocates and intellectuals warn that they are under threat since Tunisian President Kais Saied took his exceptional measures on July 25.

self censorship

In a blog post that sparked controversy, constitutional law researcher Rabeh Al-Kharaifi announced that the Tunis International Book Fair had been banned by force. His book “Corruption and the Failed State… Tunisia as a Model” was presented on the pretext of his insult to the country’s reputation, describing it as a “funny and surprising” decision.

Hours later, Al-Kharaifi published another post, in which he expressed his thanks to those he described as the brave journalists and his friends, stressing the return of his book to display again after the media pressure exerted on the responsible authorities.

In a statement to Al-Jazeera Net, the director of the “Dar Al-Kitab Publishing”, Habib Al-Zoghbi, expressed his deep dissatisfaction with the fact that an employee of the Ministry of Culture reserved a copy of the researcher Rabeh Al-Kharaifi’s book, “Corruption and the Failed State Tunisia as a Model”, under the pretext of distorting the image of Tunisia.

Al-Zoghbi confirmed that the ban took place at the entrance gate to the exhibition, where the cardboard boxes containing copies of the book were opened and inspected, and one of them was seized, in addition to the agents calling for the help of security personnel in order to prevent its display in the wing designated for it.

He continued, “As the owner of the publishing house of this book, I was subjected to incomprehensible attempts to harass (harassment) and pressure, as the security tried to forcibly enter my private wing in the exhibition in order to reserve copies of the book, and in front of my insistence that there was no judicial decision and the intervention of the rest of my fellow publishers, they retracted it.”

He stressed that the book, which was issued last July, is normally sold in the Tunisian market, and is legally deposited with the National Archives and other reference bodies, expressing his displeasure with this behavior, which reminds him of the eras of tyranny.

Al-Zoghbi suggested that the behavior shown by one of the officials in the Ministry of Culture stemmed from a personal impression in relation to the title of the book, and an attempt to curry favor with officials in the authority, he said.

A whirlwind in a cup

The incident of banning Al-Kharaifi’s book at the Tunis International Book Fair in its new session was not the first, as activists circulated through social networks another news regarding the withdrawal of a book containing the biography of the head of the Ennahda movement, Rashid Ghannouchi, by a personal order issued by the Minister of Culture in the government of exceptional measures.

In this regard, the director of the Tunis International Book Fair, Mabrouk Al-Mannai, stressed – in a special statement to Al Jazeera Net – that the practice of censorship and prevention of literary works and freedom of expression are behaviors from the tyrannical past that cannot return, according to him.

Al-Mannai explained that what happened was “a process of hiring a simple routine procedure, which is to monitor the exhibition’s management of the books that are entered, and their conformity with the nominal lists handed over by the exhibitors to the administration, denying that the matter has any political motives.”

In connection with the controversy raised by the news of banning a book on Ghannouchi’s biography by a direct order from the Minister of Culture, the exhibition director explained that the matter was related to a legal violation and a kind of “fraud” by one of the exhibitors who inserted copies of the book “Rached Ghannouchi and the Islamic Renaissance in Tunisia” although it is not included in the Lists of books licensed to display, denying that the matter was related to the content of the book or Ghannouchi himself.

Al-Zoghbi described the uproar raised by constitutional law researcher Rabeh Al-Kharaifi regarding the confiscation of his book as “a storm in a teacup”, stressing that it is related to the same routine procedure for monitoring the books that enter the exhibition and ensuring their conformity with the lists submitted to the book fair management.

Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, the writer and activist in the “Citizens Against the Coup” campaign, Shaima Issa, warned against returning Tunisia to the square of tyranny and restricting freedoms in all fields.

Issa expressed her regret for the involvement of agents from the Ministry of Culture and the director of the book fair in what she described as the “25 July system”, and the self-censorship of literary works and the confiscation of books.

Writer Shaima Issa criticized the security presence inside the book fair (Al Jazeera)

She added, “It is a vice of eternity for ministry officials to mobilize to perform the role of oversight and the tasks of the Inquisition, and to stand at the gate of the Tunis exhibition to inspect the content of books and exhibitors’ bags.”

The writer and human rights activist criticized what she described as the ruler’s incomprehensible flattery, and that “issued by a minister of culture who is originally a university and imbued with the values ​​of freedom and artistic and cultural creativity.”

It is noteworthy that the 36th session of the Tunis International Book Fair, which started on November 11, is held under the slogan “The best companion in people is a book,” and will continue until the 21st of the same month, with the participation of more than 300 theaters, publishing and distribution agents.

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Reference-www.aljazeera.net

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