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Censorship in Italy - a librarian on trial on the 17th of June

Press release
Friday, 10 June 2005

An Italian librarian has lent a legally published book to a minor of 14 and is at risk of a sentence. The book entitled Scopami (Fuck me) by Virginie Despentes is generally available in libraries and is not classified as pornography. The book appears on a list of recommended books for teenagers issued by the Italian Ministry of Work and Welfare as part of anti-drug campaign. However, the librarian has been accused under art. 528 of the Italian Criminal Code which penalises anyone who keeps or distributes an obscene written document; with the term 'obscene' defined in the following paragraph (art. 529) as anything that is an offence against decency. The next hearing is scheduled for 17th June in the Court of Pavullo (Modena).

The Judge is to decide whether the book is or is not obscene and if the librarian is therefore guilty under art. 528 of distributing an obscene written document.

IFLA is deeply concerned about this attempt to incriminate the work of librarians and violate the right of library users to access relevant resources and services without any restrictions and any form of censorship in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UNESCO/IFLA Public Libraries Manifesto and the Glasgow Declaration on Libraries, Information Services and Intellectual Freedom.

In addition to upholding the principle of the right to know, IFLA is particularly concerned in this case that the charges seek to punish the librarian for doing her job of meeting the needs of clients and informing the community. The book in question has not only been published by a reputable publisher but also recommended by a governmental ministry as a resource for a campaign on the important issue of teenage drug use. Making it available responded to a social need. The librarian should not be penalised for this, says the Chair of the IFLA/FAIFE Committee Professor Paul Sturges.

The role of libraries and their staff is to uphold and promote the principles of intellectual freedom and to provide uninhibited access to information - without any restrictions and opposing any form of censorship. The selection and availability of library materials and services shall be governed by professional considerations and not by political, moral and religious views. Upholding these principles, libraries serve as gateways to knowledge offering essential support for independent decision-making.

IFLA/FAIFE hopes that the Italian authorities will uphold the rights of intellectual freedom and defend freedom of access to information by granting the librarian a full acquittal.