(Freedom of expression and of information)
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
by Adelina Barradas de Oliveira, Appeals Court Judge
Only a few days ago, I was telling you here, concerning the European Parliament's meeting about the subject, that freedom of expression will only be possible in an enlightened democracy.
Look what happened almost simultaneously with Saramago and his new book. Look at the injunction that was requested against a book that used to circulate around.
But criticism or the will not to hear, or read, or know what does not meet our will, and especially our knowledge, is not new, and, probably for the worse, it will never be old.
Salazar used to say very well:- "Men, groups, classes, they see, they observe things, they study events under the light of their own interest." But if he said it well, he thought it even better, and right away, from the top of his power chair he understood that: - "There is only one entity that, out of power and position, has to see everything under the light of everyone's interest".
Decree 22 469 is explicit as it establishes previous censorship in regular publications, "flyers, leaflets, posters and other publications, whenever they focus on matters of political or social nature".
However, Salazar is not a useful example. Censorship, or the blue pencil, does not appear only in Salazar's time and is not exclusive to our history.
Censorship is as old as Man's fear of being confronted with an opinion that does not match his own, or writings, or speech that positions itself between him and his goals.
I leave you some clippings from history that are, or not, according to your own understanding, limitations on true freedom of expression.
These are a few examples, if you happen to have some more... Gather them with these ones.
It is a joint exercise of thought and a search for enlightenment, for us to stop to think how far we are prepared to hear or understand, to discuss or to argue (but to let be), that opinion that is not ours and that may be the majority, and because it is different, it always makes us grow richer in the way that it prompts us to think, to question, to create, to change and to move forward in personal or global growth, in a life that we wish to be enlightened and therefore serene.
The blue tone of a pencil that is made out of crystals of fear, has to be dissolved by the courage of seeing ourselves in the eyes of others, and in the courage of thinking out loud.
Neither fear of reading, nor fear of writing, or fear of creating, help us grow as a culture or make us richer as a civilisation, any democracy or any future.
In 1989, ayatollah Khomeini condemned Salman Rushdie to death, following the publication of his book Satanic Versicles
"Caim" is José Saramago's new romance, and God is one of the main characters
PSP [police] seizes books because a cover with a painting by Courbet is considered pornographic
The Gospel According To Jesus Christ (1991 ) is a romance by José Saramago that tells the life of Jesus in a modern and anti-religious way.
The first books that can be remembered as being censored in Portugal by regal power were the works by John Wycliffe and Jan Hus, which were forbidden and ordered to be burned through a Decree dated August 18, 1451, by king D. Afonso V .
Later on, there is news about the repression of the divulgation of Lutheran texts by king D. Manuel, which led pope Leon X to thank him officially on the 20th of August of 1521.
In 1486, a book titled Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches) that was written by two Dominican monks, Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, was published. Malleus Maleficarum is a kind of manual that teaches inquisitors to recognise witches and their disguises, to identify their supposed malefices, and to investigate and condemn them legally. The Decree dated March 31, 1821 leads to the abolition of the Inquisition Tribunal, due to it being "incompatible with the principles that were adopted at the bases of the Constitution", with "spiritual and merely ecclesiastic causes" given back to the "Episcopal Jurisdiction". The Constitution of 1822 establishes freedom of the press ("the free communication of thoughts"), without the need for previous censorship, although it is pointed out that any abuse may be sanctioned "in the cases and in the shape that law determines".
With the First World War, censorship is put into place on the 12th of March, 1916, following the declaration of War by Germany. The seizing of all documents whose publication could put national defence at stake, or made of propaganda against the war, was ordered.
The Portuguese Constitution of 1933, published on the 11th of April, is out at the same time as Decree 22 469. While article 8 of the Constitution, in number 4, establishes "freedom of thought in any shape or form".
During the Estado Novo, the Superior Inspection of Libraries and Archives prohibited the reading of certain documents - one could not read anything that was related to Portuguese India that was after the War of Baçaim (1732 /1739) and the National Library included a list of books that could not be read.
Luís de Camões had to submit the text of "Os Lusíadas" to the Inquisition's censors, at Mosteiro de S. Domingos, discussing it verse after verse. That which today is considered to be the greatest poem of the Portuguese language and culture, even went through a period when it was forgotten, ignored and despised, which can also be considered as a subtle form of censorship.
On the 25th of July, 1567, Damião de Góis saw the fourth part of his Crónica do Felicíssimo Rei D. Manuel going into print. Nonetheless, more than five years later, it was not on sale yet, because allegedly Bishop D. António Pinheiro had to correct an error on a page. Thus previous censorship prompted abuse of power by the censors, whenever they had an argument with the authors.
Even Padre António Vieira was arrested by the Inquisition, from 1665 until 1667, because in his writings he openly defended the cristãos-novos and criticised the actions from the Inquisition's Dominicans.
Playwright António José da Silva, who was known by the nickname "O Judeu" ["The Jew"], was arrested and tortured in 1726, along with his mother. In 1737 he was arrested again, also with his mother, his wife and his daughter, and was decapitated and burned during an auto-de-fé at the Terreiro do Trigo in Lisbon. His wife and his mother were also burned alive.
Estado Novo, Maria Velho da Costa, Maria Teresa Horta and Maria Isabel Barreno saw themselves involved in a judicial process that became famous due to the publication of their joint book "Novas cartas portuguesas", that allegedly included pornographic and immoral parts - nowadays there is consensus that the book merely criticises the Portuguese patriarchalism and the condition of women in Portugal.
Many authors saw their books apprehended, or were arrested, like Soeiro Pereira Gomes, Aquilino Ribeiro, José Régio, Maria Lamas, Rodrigues Lapa, Urbano Tavares Rodrigues, Alves Redol, Alexandre Cabral, Orlando da Costa, Alexandre O´Neil, Alberto Ferreira, António Borges Coelho, Virgílio Martinho, António José Forte, Alfredo Margarido, Carlos Coutinho, Carlos Loures, Amadeu Lopes Sabino, Fátima Maldonado, Hélia Correia, Raul Malaquias Marques, among many others.
Aquilino Ribeiro, for example, saw his book Quando os lobos uivam, published in 1958, the year that I was born, seized.
The court has decided, albeit in a provisory manner given the fact that it is an injunction, to forbid editors of selling Gonçalo Amaral's books and videos "that are still left in shops or in other deposits or warehouses and the obligation to collect them and to deliver them to a depositary".*
More about this subject here
____written on the 29.10.2009________
(post revisited) - published at 22:53 Tuesday, February 2, 2010, in Expresso
*Note from JM: Gonçalo Amaral's book was handed over to the McCanns' lawyer in Portugal; recently, the media published that the McCann couple requests the complete and irreversible destruction of all copies of the book 'Maddie, The Truth of The Lie', as well as the documentary based on the book. The destruction of books in a society that considers itself a democracy, is unacceptable.