* Will that include the Koran and the teaching of jihad (inner struggle) against unbelievers?
AFP/File Photo: Attorney-General Philip Ruddock announced the Australian government plans to outlaw books that advocate terrorism…
The Australian government plans to outlaw books that advocate terrorism in a move that publishers say raises serious concerns abut free speech.
Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock announced late Friday that his state counterparts had agreed to consider legislative changes banning publications that advocate terrorism.
He said the planned changes were part of a “zero tolerance” approach to terrorism from Canberra, a strong supporter of the US-led military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Books, games, videos, anything that is seen to be advocating a terrorist act would be refused classification, therefore could not be marketed,” Ruddock told public radio.
He said that under existing laws, a publication can only be banned if it is deemed to directly “promote, incite or instruct” readers to engage in terrorist acts.
The proposed new laws ban books that simply advocate terrorism, meaning anything that censors feel glorifies terrorism can be outlawed.
While the distinction may appear subtle, the Australian Publishers Association said it had major implications for free speech in Australia.
“The difficulty is that once you start legislating thew ability of a government to ban books or ban all types of publishing, then you have a problem that it could be the thin edge of the wedge,” association spokeswoman Maree McCaskill told ABC radio.
“We’ve already seen a number of publications taken out of libraries and taken off shelves that have been published and been around for some time, and now the government has removed those.
I have a real concern that this is about freedom of speech. It is about censorship and once you start allowing governments to censor as they feel fit, then you give them a very wide opportunity to start being the arbiter of all sorts of things that should be banned or removed from shelves.”
State attorney’s-general will report back to Canberra on the feasibility of the proposed laws by July.