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Friday, May 18, 2012

The bureaucracy of censorship in Kuwait

From the Kuwait Times:

Proud of her job to keep others ignorant
Different professions have different tastes. Sometimes we wonder how the work of some people goes on, especially if it is not very common. The censors who are responsible for censoring books and other publications do an interesting job, which becomes harder during some periods of the year, yet it seems they enjoy it. In Kuwait, freedoms are respected yet within certain limits. “The limits of freedom in the press, TV, radio or other media is organized by law no. 3/2006 concerning Press and Publications, law no. 61/2007 concerning Visual and Audio Media, and related by-laws,” Dalal Al-Mutairi, head of the Foreign Books Department at the Ministry of Information told Kuwait Times.

These laws set the basic rules to deal with right and wrong acts announced or published in the media. “This is also related to books, electronic publications and games and many other things. There are certain red lines that should not be crossed by the publishers, writers, authors and others. In order to check the application of the laws and that it’s not violated, there are inspectors and censors working at the Ministry of Information,” she added.

Dalal started her career as a censor at the Foreign Books Department and became the head of the department after a few years. “Many people consider the censor to be a fanatic and uneducated person, but this isn’t true. We are the most literate people as we have read much, almost every day. We receive a lot of information from different fields. We read books for children, religious books, political, philosophical, scientific ones and many others,” she pointed out.

“As a censor, I read a book from beginning to the end, word by word. In case the censor makes a mistake, the head of the department will be responsible for this mistake, as they should also read the book. The time to finish censoring a book depends on the kind of the book. For instance, a philosophical book needs about four days to read,” Dalal added.

...According to the law, if there is a violation, the censor writes a report about it. “Nobody can distribute any book unless he has a license to do so. The distributor should bring a copy of the book to our department. Sometimes we receive complaints from people regarding some books. Then we investigate with the printing press that published and printed this book. The printing house is responsible for the material and books printed by it and they should inform the Ministry of Information that they are printing a book, and then the book is not distributed without a license. There are some censors and inspectors from our department who inspect different printing presses to check their license,” Dalal stated.

...The greatest load on the department is during the Book Fair. “We start censoring the books in this fair about three months before it is held. We receive about 7,000 to 8,000 books to read. There are about 15 censors working on this fair. These censors take the books home with them to finish their reading. If we find a book containing restrictions, we write a report that is passed to a committee which decides that certain books will be banned from the fair,” she highlighted.

...Working as a censor is interesting. “I like this work. It gives us experience, information and we always learn something new. It takes about a year or a year and a half to become a censor, as the person is first employed as a censor assistant. The employee first starts slow in reading and it takes him a week or days to finish a book. Also, beginners are not given political or religious books in the beginning as these are difficult. Instead we give them children’s books or some scientific books, which are easy,” said Dalal.

In some religious books, the censorship department cooperates with the Ministry of Endowments. “Religious opinions may differ and that’s why we demand a professional explanation, although we have some censors who are graduates of the Faculty of Islamic Law. Some religious issues are transferred to the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs. The banned books include publications printed in Israel, Christian missionary and Jewish books and other similar books,” she noted.
(h/t @georgehale)