The war in former Yugoslavia has not only left its marks in cities and villages, but has also wreaked havoc within the interesting landscape of native languages such as Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian. As a form of literary historic preservation, the Macedonian cultural institute Blesok has initiated a series of publications by predominantly young poets in these languages. The fund has backed the financing of this.
Among the board’s first endeavors was to preserve the memory of Eva Tas by means of a biographical sketch which gives special attention to her work as chief editor of the Auschwitz Bulletin. J.J. Amesz and J.A. Honout, Eva Tas, Altijd weer Auschwitz, Azul Press, Maastricht, 2011.
This publication is, in part, the reason why Eva has been included in the Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon of the Netherlands.
Under the supervision of the South African poet Breyten Breytenbach, and under the title Imagine Africa, the publishing department of the Gorée Institute has launched a series of publications which provide a ‘state-of-the-art’ view of South African culture. Collections of essays and poetry in a range of South African languages, by writers such as Akwasi Aidoo, Stephen Ellis, Ayo Obe, Andrew Gilmour and Shailja Patel, give shape to a differentiated yet also convergent portrayal of contemporary South African culture.
The Eva Tas Foundation is supporting this initiative in terms of financial assistance as well as content.
In 1960 Abellatif Laâbi established his reputation as a poet and founder of the periodical Souffles. But this also brought him into conflict with the Moroccan authorities, who imprisoned and tortured him. After emigrating to France he continued to publish works, for which he was awarded such prizes as the Prix Goncourt de la Poésie, in 2009, and the Grand Prix de la Francophonie in 2011. Outside the French-speaking regions, however, this famous yet exiled avant-garde poet remained largely unknown.
Thanks to support from the Eva Tas Foundation, the widely praised English translation of his collection by André Naffis-Sahaly, titled The Bottom of the Jar. The Rule of Barbarism (Archipelago Books, New York) could be published in 2013.
Thanks to the leading translators Daniel Hahn and Sean O’Brien the lyrically and politically powerful Selected Poems of the major Cape Verdean writer, Corsino Fortes has been brought into English. Corsino Fortes, born in 1933 was a poet, activist, educator, lawyer and diplomat. He was Cape Verde’s ambassador to both Portugal and Angola and served as a judge in Angola.
Writing in a mixture of Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole, he describes his country in the heated, generative moments of its new formation. As much as these poems emerge from the archipelago, they also describe the emigration of its people into Europe and the United States. The Assymptot Journal of February 2015 calls it a magnificent, generous, and bilingual presentation of Corsino Fortes’s work to anyone who enjoys grappling with the poignant, the sensuous, and the esoteric.
The Eva Tas Foundation supported the publication of this bundle.
In 2010 two young journalists from Sudan found themselves forced to flee, by way of Cairo, to Kampala, Uganda. There, on the website www.hurriyatsudan.com, they set up an online magazine that focused on the political situation in their own country and surrounding countries. Despite the great number of visitors to the website, it became clear that the readership remained low due to the fact that many people in that part of the world still have no access to the Internet.
For that reason the initiators sought support from the Eva Tas Foundation, so that a printed version of the magazine could be distributed throughout Sudan. The foundation did comply with their request and has financed three years of publication.
The banning of publications, particularly those dealing directly or indirectly with the theme of freedom in that country, is the order of the day in Vietnam. In view of those circumstances, it comes as no surprise that the work of poets is frequently rejected by the Vietnamese censor. The Eva Tas Foundation has financed the production, outside Vietnam, of two collections by young Vietnamese poets, in English translations and in the original language: by Bùi Chát, One-rhyme Poems, and by Lý Doi, When Our Enemy Falls Asleep.
A substantial number of copies of these publications were able to be smuggled into Vietnam, where they were distributed under the supervision of the authors.
Mainly in order to broaden the potential to invite major poets from countries where censorship takes place, of where poets are subject to pressure in other ways, the Eva Tas Foundation has financially supported several editions of the biennial international poetry festival held in Maastricht.
On the occasion of the republication of Bert Schierbeek’s collected work, the Eva Tas Foundation held a well-attended literary afternoon devoted to this writer who, undeservedly, faded into obscurity.
The foundation financed the publication of a book titled Delayed Democracy, how press freedom collapsed in Gambia (Author House LLC, Bloomington IN, USA). Here refugee investigative journalist and former chief editor of the Gambian newspaper The Independent, Alagi Yorrow, describes president Yahya Jammeh’s take-over in his country and subjects this to further analysis based on historical, political and socio-economic perspectives.
When the Russian/Chechen investigative journalist and human-rights activist Natalia Estemirova was murdered under circumstances which have yet to be explained, her talented daughter Lana lost not only her mother, but also her prospects of a proper education. In collaboration with various individuals and organizations, a fund was set up to safeguard her future in that respect. The Eva Tas Foundation was among the initiators.
One of the reasons why Ronny Someck can be called an unusual poet is that he has a combined Arab/ Israeli background. Born in Baghdad in 1951, he emigrated to Israel as a child. This mix, which clearly echoes throughout his work, puts Someck (who is also active as a performer, visual artist and composer) in an exceptional position in that part of the world which is so afflicted with mutual distrust. For the Eva Tas Foundation this was a decisive reason for supporting the publication of his collection Asphalt Dragons (Azul Press, 2011) which is illustrated with his own graphic work.
The fund provided a financial contribution toward the publication of the first three volumes of The Journal of Tibetan Studies. This is a publication which conveys, in Tibetan, the results of research on various areas of the seriously endangered Tibetan culture, such as religion, literature and history. Issued twice per year, the periodical is distributed at schools, universities and other educational institutions outside Tibet. This is prohibited in the country itself. As such, a vital contribution can be made, in the face of repression, to the preservation and enrichment of the Tibetan culture; and young Tibetan researchers as well as readers are urged to keep their culture alive and resist pressure from Chinese sources.
At universities throughout the world, interest in the Tibetan culture is growing steadily. The cultural/scholarly periodical therefore also offers articles that have been written by non-Tibetan researchers outside Tibet.
As a victim of a brutal unsolved murder Chief editor and initator of the magazine, Lobsang Chokta, died last february. At this moment the consequences for the continuity of the magazine are uncertain.
In countries where censorship and repression are prevalent, it is mainly laws, rules and authorities that limit the freedom of writers. In the ‘free world’, on the other hand, it is sooner the day-to-day worries that obstruct the freedom of being able to write. In both instances, an atmosphere in which an author can work without disruption for a certain period could provide a solution. With this in mind the ETF realised on the Dutch isle of Texel the possibility of offering an appropriate facility where writers would be able to work quietly in inspiring surroundings while, for example, finishing a manuscript, a compilation of work, or an essay.
The writer’s house is not a holiday home. One is coming to work. To keep the use for witers as low as possible, there are no costs for the stay.
The Skaters of Havana
The fund provided a supplement to the travel budget of journalist Maartje Duin to give her the opportunity to pay extra attention during her research on Cuba to the situation regarding the freedom of expression since the recent liberalization of relations with the West. She reported about her findings in Dutch magazines like De Groene Amsterdammer (September 29, 2016), VPRO- gids (July 16, 2016) and the September issue of the Amnesty International periodical, Wordt Vervolgd. On July 21, 2016, Dutch Radio 1 broadcasted her program titled The Skaters of Havana.
In our series about censorship in the world Amir Valle wrote in Palabras Amordazadas (Gagged, in English translation) about the situation in Cuba – nowadays and in the past. He made clear that the freedom of the written word on the island was and is still far from ideal. There are still hardly any possibilities to publish in full freedom work of contemporary Cuban writers. This situation is a direct threat to the free development of Cuban literature.
Publishing house Bokehpress based in Leiden, the Netherlands, is able to offer some relief through the publication of the work of Cuban writers and poets. Moreover, the two founders of this special publishing house, a Dutch lady who studied Spanish literature and the Cuban artist in exile, have found a way to distribute their books in Cuba among a growing interested public. The foundation has provided additional funding during the year 2017 for this important cultural initiative.
Malditos de la Post Guerra
At the beginning of the nineties there arose a gap between the official Cuban art circuit, consisting of a small select group of established artists and the bustling contemporary Cuban art scene, populated with often critical, mostly young, artists, art critics, theorists and curators. Authorities were ignored and silenced as much as possible.
This led, among other things, to young artists, without any support from above, to operate independently, often helped by internationally renowned Cuban artists, curators and gallery owners, including Sandra Ceballos. As curator and founder of the Espacio Aglutinador gallery, she organized groundbreaking exhibitions, happenings and installations. Although they did not lead to enthusiasm from the authorities, they were allowed – probably because of the broad support from abroad, including the Prince Claus Fund, HIVOS, the DOEN Foundation, and the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Also from the side of successful Cuban-American visual artists, such as Coco Fusco, financial contributions came.
Sandra was looking for support for her new project Malditos de la Postguerra (Curse after the War), a collages exhibition, made up of the most important exhibitions of the last decade, often dedicated to an artist who is boycotted, or officially does not even exist. The ETF made it possible to publish an extensive and richly illustrated catalog of the event.
During the Frankfurter Book Fair 2016 it was announced that the 14th Documenta, which was to bel be held in 2017 both in Kassel as well as in Athens, was to pay special attention to the book burning by the Nazis in 1933. Eva Tas has mentioned the burning of the books of her beloved German writers, including Thomas Mann, as one of the most horrible messages from her German teacher at the Vossius Gymnasium of Amsterdam who, to her astonishment was not moved at all by this news.
Dokumenta 14 followed the moving example of the Argentine artist Marta Minujin. In 1983 she built on the 9th Avenue Julio in Buenos Aires a copy of the Parthenon of Athens by using banned books as material. That was her way to commemorate the evil of censorship during the reign of the Argentine dictator julio Videla.
In Kassel a special Parthenon was established on the Friedrich Platz, the place where the burning took place in this city. The special arrangement resulted in a gigantic bookcase with a huge collection of books that for some reason were boycotted by authorities everywhere in the world. This produced a penetrating and dreadful picture of the consequences of curtailing the freedom of expression. But it also showed that books are the building blocks of the temple of democracy and freedom, and certainly no kindling.
The ETF contributed material for this special installation in the form of nearly 100 original copies of titles that had been on the blacklist of the occupying forces during the Second World War in the Netherlands. Thus authors such as Victor van Vriesland and A. den Doolaard were able to give an appearance in Kassel. And with them many other Dutch writers, from whom the pen was stolen by the occupying forces.
Why the Allies have failed in World War II to bomb the railways to Auschwitz and other extermination camps? Why did not they try in this way to prevent, or at least limit, the murder of so many Jews, Roma/Sinti and gay?
These are questions that concern many people for many years. In their television documentary, Spoor naar Auschwitz (Railway to Auschwitz) Dutch journalist Frénk van der Linden and director Gisèla Mallant are in search of an explanation for the fact that Western leaders like Churchill and Roosevelt did not commission to wipe out the trains with the main death camps.
Ultimately, there remain two questions unanswered: were these politicians not interested? Or was it by the state of the former technique simply impossible to perform the required precision bombing? When at the last moment the budget was inadequate to complete the project, the board made a financial contribution. Considering that Eva Tas was editor in chief of the Dutch Auschwitz Bulletin, it was for sure acting in her spirit.
With its 731 million internet user, China owns the biggest citizen population in the world. Yet with dozens of laws and regulations, the authorities tie the hands of the internet enterprises and providers. Hundreds of thousands of internet police and the firewalls prevent the individual user to have access to the open and unfiltered information. The conventional media – press, broadcasting and television as well as all the electronic social media suffer together with the Internet under severe censorship.
Although there are diverse and countless restrictions on the media, there is no Press Law in China. The General Administration of Press and Publication is the highest authority, which monitor and control the press and media of the whole country. Besides that, the different local level, such as province, autonomous region, city, county and township has also its mandatory of surveillance on the information flow. Meanwhile the media industry has provided so many crevices and possibilities for the expended market that despite the censorship, the media industry is to a certain stand still flourishing.
ETF supported mr. Pan, a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, living in Germany, to write a book on this situation that was presented during a crowdedpress conference in Taiwan. In 2015 censorship in China was also the subject of a title supported by the ETF. Writing books were central to Drugs for the Mind, written by Sofie Sun, a Chinese student living in the Netherlands. Mr. Pan focuses primarily on the consequences of the ICT revolution for free speech in his country. Thus there is no overlap and both titles complement each other.
In various magazines in the Netherlands and Belgium articles were published, written by Pamela Kalkman who, with the support of the ETF, had been able to investigate the murder, committed on 17 October 2014, on the 53-year-old journalist Pablo Medina and his 19- year-old assistant Antonia Almada. Murderers were two men dressed as policemen.
Medina was correspondent of the national newspaper ABC Color and was known for reporting on drug trafficking in the border between Paraguay and Brazil and the links between drug cartels and local Paraguayan politicians.
The attack led to a parliamentary investigation into ties between politicians and drug mafia and brought an impressive list to light with the names of senators involved in drug trafficking. However, nothing has ever happened with that information. One of the murderers is in prison, the other is still fugitive.
Especially in her long read, Kalkman succeeds in making the fatal influence felt by a culture of impunity, corruption and (self-) censorship on journalists. Cameraman/photographer Bowie Verschuuren accompanied Pamela Kalkman to tell the same story by a different medium. His film, intended for festivals, the alternative circuit and the Internet is currently being finalized.
As a tribute to one of the funding fathers of the ETF, first chairman Hans van de Waarsenburg, the ETF allowed the publication of his latest story, which was presented posthumously in the spring of 2018. Hans is best known as a poet, but Hans also looked for the beauty of the word in his prose. Paricutín is a travel diary of a visit, not his first, to Mexico. As can be expected from a born poet, the vocabulary of Paricutín is striking and expressive. What makes this publication extra special is the silkscreen of the crater of the Paricutín volcano, which is folded around the cover of the book.
The maker of this artwork is the Dutch visual artist and friend of Hans, Jan Hendrix, who has lived in Mexico since 1978.
The series of booklets on censorship has been our main task in recent years. In the year under review a book was published about the situation in Suriname, a country with which the Netherlands, the location of the ETF, has a special bond. We have now published ten titles. On this website, you will find a PDF of the different publcations. Particularly thanks to the well-maintained contacts with related organizations at home and abroad interesting and involved authors could be interested in writing a contribution to the censorship series, which deals with the situation in their own country. In this way it was possible to produce a beautiful series.
Distribution however turned out to be a different story. Since printed copies are distributed free of charge as an incentive for accessibility, the book trade is generally not interested. A welcome exception to this rule is The American Bookcentre at Spui in Amsterdam, which was willing to offer a pile of censorship books free of charge to the interested reader. Along this elegant road a considerable number of copies found their way to and interested international audiences.
Thanks to the appearance as e-book, the series could be included in the online library of the Public Library of the Netherlands. Through the site Smashwords it was possible to distribute the e-books for free. However, other sites such as Bol.com, Create Space and Amazon are asking a price for an e-book. Making the series available on the online streaming service for textbooks, BUKU, stimulated the distribution among students of all Dutch colleges and universities.
Dina Meza (1963), an investigative journalist and human rights defender from Honduras describes in Kidnapped how the Honduran state, responsible for protecting the right to free expression, essential for democracy, has both in the past and present placed obstacles in the paths of those who decide to defy censorship, with harmful and even fatal consequences. She exposes the problems for freedom of expression in journalism and literature in Honduras, the forms of censorship that have been introduced to conceal the truth, but also the creativity of Hondurans who refuse to be defeated in the face of this oppressive system. Dina Meza is director of the pasosdeanimalgrande.com digital newspaper which covers freedom of expression issues and the general human rights situation in Honduras. She has received various awards for her work.
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In Speaking in Silence, Bui Thanh Hieu (1972) exposes, with humour and irony, the measures taken by the civil servants of the special judicial, administrative and technological strike force to control online information. In doing so, he provides an astonishing glimpse into the way that bloggers and cyberdissidents, who dare to question the governments’s legitimacy or domestic policies, are ruthlessly suppressed in this holiday paradise. As a political blogger, Bui has experienced this personally. He used the internet to comment critically on hot political topics such as territorial disputes with China, as well as Vietnam’s handling of land disputes with the Catholic church. As a result, he was arrested and his computers confiscated. The licence for his Internet café in Hanoi was revoked. However Hieu continued, and his blog was read by up to 15,000 visitors per day. Because of his commitment, he was arrested and detained on numerous occasions. He was finally able to leave the country when he received an invitation from the city of Weimar in Germany.
In the eyes of the Chinese authorities books are too often Drugs for the Mind. Sofie Sun (1986) chose this remarkable description as the title of her investigation into censorship and literature in the People’s Republic of China. She interviewed representatives of three groups of authors who each have their own view about censorship: writers with no official status living and working in the People’s Republic of China, writers in exile, and those who are members of the Chinese Writers Association. She tells these writers’ stories and sketches a picture of censorship and self-censorship in the People’s Republic of China. Sofie Sun was born in the People’s Republic of China and came to the Netherlands in 2007, where she has lived ever since. She holds a BA and an MA in Dutch literature from Leiden University. She has translated a range of Dutch titles into Chinese. She will soon complete and defend her doctoral dissertation Dutch literature in Chinese translation, 1961-2010.
Press freedom in Turkey is a hot item these days. At the first sight its story is simple: it does not exist. But at the other it reveals a lot of undemocratic laws, feeble journalistic traditions and huge economic and politial intrests that are hard to entangle. Providing staggering examples and enlightening interviews, Fréderike Geerdink exposes in Bans, Jails and Shameless Lies the mechanisms that lead to flagrant violations of freedom of the press in Turkey.
Over recent decades dozens of journalists in Turkey have not survived the lack of press freedom. A number of their portraits have been included in their commemoration. Fréderike Geerdink (1970) was a correspondent in Turkey from 2006 to 2015 when she was deported by the Turkish authorities for doing her work as a journalist.
In Likvidacija, Macedonian for Annihilation the investigating journalist Tomislav Kezharovski (1965) writes about the breath taking power abuse by the Macedonian authorities who took him in 2013 into prison because of an article he wrote five years before. Despite the absence of any evidence that he violated any law, Kezharovski was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. After spending five months in jail, in cramped and unsanitary conditions, and without access to medical treatment, he was released into house arrest pending the outcome of his appeal. As in January 2015 his sentence was reduced to two years, he was arrested again to serve the remaining five months. Widespread domestic and international protests, by hundreds of journalists and activists led to Kezharovski’s release.
This essay describes from experience about the lawlessness of the system and the unimaginable prison conditions in present Macedonia, where free expression is under increasing threat and journalists are pushed into self-censorship fearing that telephones and emails are monitored.
Bisrat Woldemichael Handiso (1983) tells in Genocide of Thought the sad story of the media which is faced – after a spell of press freedom and freedom of speech – with prosecution, often based on false accusations. The victims are brave journalists and media publishers who were detained or fled Ethiopia, so that they can continue reporting about the government’s violation of human rights. The author’s main message is that a government which doesn’t respect media freedom, blocks a country’s development in the broadest sense of the term.
Handiso is an Ethiopian journalist who worked as an editor for different local newspapers. He was one of the founders of the Ethiopian Journalists Forum (EJF), an independent association made up of largely young journalists who advocate for greater press freedom in his country. In this function he ran training workshops and discussions on press freedom, visited journalists in prison and hospital and facilitated medical assistance for them. The EJF was accused of being an illegal organisation associated with terrorism. Handiso was persecuted by the Ethiopian secret service and decided to save his life by fleeing to Nairobi, Kenya, where he has got a refugee status.
According to Parvez Alam (1985) ‘state of nature’ and ‘state of exception’ have become the only two options for the people of Bangladesh, where writers , bloggers and publishers are getting killed by Al – Qaeda and persecuted by the Government. The intellectuals of the country are eaten by the dogs or by the cats, not to mention by the tigers.
Unlike his publisher and some fellow writers who were victims of an attack, Parvez Alam, who ran imminent danger because of his atheistic blogs, could escape. He ended up in Amsterdam using the Shelter City Programme for Human Rights Defenders. There he spent much of his time writing Disappearing Public Spheres. In his book he analyses as an experience expert how Bangladesh during the last few years has become a highly polarized and repressed society. His conclusion is ironclad: It’s a great time for terror and authoritarianism.
Dutch economist and diplomat Peter de Haan (1946) demonstrates a negative relationship between censorship and economic development. The more a regime clamps down on freedom of the media, the poorer its economic development. Welfare economics pays attention to the role of culture in society: the promotion of culture adds to the well being of citizens. De Haan recalls that culture also promotes-through its inspirational strength innovation and a society’s economic development. Famous economists, writers, and philosophers have argued that there is also a relationship between freedom including freedom of expression-and democracy. This offers, so he argues in Censorship Alert, an extra reason why the fight against censorship should, also in an international context, be made an integral part of developmental-aid projects.
The booklet also provides a long list of international organizations defending freedom of expression and freedom of the media, including information about what they do and how victims of censorship can benefit from them.
The Cuban writer in exile, Amir Valle (1967), offers a unique analysis of the suppression of freedom of expression in Cuba by Fidel Castro’s ‘revolutionary’ government. From the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 to the ‘Raulist Era’ of today, he offers a chilling survey of the most significant cases of cultural repression and censorship perpetrated by the longest Communist dictatorship in the world.
From their beginnings in literature and journalism, the author has witnessed first hand the oppressive and painful wounds inflicted by censorship and cultural repression. He is detested by the dictatorship of the Castro brothers for his ethical stance, his intellectual honesty, his knowledge of the reality of political and cultural power in Cuba, and his work as a writer and journalist to reveal the sinister truths Castroism wants to conceal from the world. The title of the book in English is: Gagged. The Spanish version was published as Palabras Amordazadas.
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Journalist Sylvana van den Braak, whose graduation thesis on censorship in Suriname had been noticed, was able to collect new data that she incorporated into a penetrating contribution to the series by means of a repeated visit to Suriname. Because of the special bond between Suriname and the Netherlands, the book was published in Dutch. Peter de Haan took care of the English translation that was published separately.
Van den Braak makes it clear that, despite democratic elections, the government and the bussines sector are still influencing the media. In addition, the small scale of the community of Surinam, where almost everyone knows each other, creates an attitude of self-censorship. Journalists could and should make a difference. But, as was stressed during the book presentation from the forum of Surinamese journalists, journalism in Suriname has a long way to go before it is ready.
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