The BBC and book bans – real and imagined

Readers may recall that in late 2015 and early 2016, various BBC radio programmes misled their audiences by promoting assorted versions of the inaccurate claim that Dorit Rabinyan’s book ‘Gader Haya’ (‘Borderlife’) has been banned in Israel.

December 2015, BBC World Service: BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist.

January 2016, BBC World Service: BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’.

February 2016, BBC Radio 4: How an uncorrected inaccuracy became BBC conventional wisdom.

March 2016, BBC World Service: BBC WS yet again promotes inaccurate claim of Israeli book ‘ban’.

A BBC Watch complaint on the topic was eventually upheld.book-ban

Recently a Middle East author really did have a book banned. However, the writer is Palestinian and the government department that ordered the ban is part of the Palestinian Authority. Coincidentally or not, BBC audiences have heard nothing of that story.

“Palestinian Authority Attorney General Ahmad Barak announced on Monday that he was banning the distribution of a new novel on the grounds that it contained “indecent texts and terms that threaten morality and public decency, which could affect the population, in particular minors.”

The book, Crime in Ramallah by Abbad Yahya, reportedly contains explicit sexual content, including masturbation.

The attorney general’s office stated that all copies of the novel would be seized because the book “breaches both international treaties and Palestinian press and publication ordinance.””

In addition, the author apparently faces an arrest warrant.

“In a telephone interview, Yahya told The Associated Press that he was visiting Doha when he learned of the ban and the arrest warrant, published by the official governmental news agency. He said he is now stuck in the Qatari capital, fearing he would be arrested as soon as he returns home.

“I don’t know what to do. If I go back, I will be arrested, and if I stay here, I can’t stay far from my home and family,” he said.”

Oddly, the media organisation that gave so much coverage to a non-existent ‘book ban’ while citing unfounded concerns of “political interference in Israeli culture” does not appear to be interested in reporting this actual Palestinian Authority banning of a novel.