Gordimer goes global

2010-10-23 12:34

Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer has taken her fight against the proposed Protection of Information Bill and the Media Tribunal global.

The anti-apartheid stalwart, ­author and poet, recently garnered support from 700 international writers for a petition drafted in ­opposition to the proposed bill and tribunal.

Gordimer read the petition at the recent Goteborg Book Fair in ­Sweden, in which she says, among other things, that: “Denial of freedom of expression makes a mockery of the profession of journalism – the print press and the media in general.”

Speaking on the phone from her Johannesburg home, Gordimer who had three books banned under apartheid, said: “Protection of ­information is a euphemism for censorship.”

“I’m well aware, as are my ­comrade writers, of what any kind of censorship means. Writers of fiction, poets, biographers, may be different to journalists, but this also­ affects us.”

Gordimer says the proposed bill and tribunal will negatively affect writers’ creative freedom in that they often rely on characters of plots that may be based on real events or people.

“We might get accused of propagating ideas that are dangerous for the protection of information. And if you’re writing a novel, you’ll have to go to the tribunal and see if it’s okay if you can go ahead or not.”

Among those who supported the petition are Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, and Per Wastberg, President­ of the Nobel Academy.

“What the government doesn’t realise,” said Gordimer, “is that this proposed legislation is very bad for our image as a free country and as a developing democracy.

“It goes against the precepts of our democracy and this is how it is being viewed by people in Sweden, but also in France and other places. There is a concern that we are taking this road having amazingly­ achieved the end of apartheid. Everyone expects a great deal from us.”

The proposed bill and tribunal – which she refers to as the “word police” - are not merely a threat to writers but also to readers, says Gordimer. “It’s scary to see old forms of censorship re-appearing. Not only is it bad for our image, but it’s a threat to freedom of expression in all its manifestations.

“I’ve had three books banned and I can’t compare the risks I took to the risks taken by other comrades, some of whom gave their lives. But we writers know what could happen if freedom of information is curtailed.”

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