Monday, November 06, 2006

Norwegian Forum for Freedom of Expression

For a history of censorship and a searchable database of books that have been banned and challenged over the years, check out the Beacon for Freedom of Expression Project. Besides having a database of banned or challenged books, there is a second database of publications on censorship and the freedom of expression. There are a number of ways to search for data, such as according to author, title, country, time period.

This project has been produced by the Norwegian Forum for Freedom of Expression, the Norwegian National Library, and the Norwegian Library Association.

According to the site:
Censorship has followed the free expressions of men and women like a shadow through history. In ancient societies, such as those of Israel or China, censorship was considered a legitimate instrument for regulating the moral and political life of the population. In China, the first censorship law was introduced in 300 AD. The origin of the term censor in English can be traced to the office of censor established in Rome in 443 BC. In Rome, as in the ancient Greek communities, the ideal of good governance included shaping the character of the people. Hence censorship would have been regarded as an honourable task. The most famous case of censorship in ancient times is that of Socrates, sentenced to drink poison in 399 BC for his corruption of youth and his acknowledgement of unorthodox divinities. But it is fair to assume that Socrates was not the first person to be severely punished for violating the moral and political code of his time. This ancient view of censorship, as a benevolent public service in the best interest of the people, is still upheld by countries such as China, as it was advocated by the rulers of the Soviet Union (USSR), responsible for the longest lasting and most extensive censorship of the 20th Century.

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