Academics have criticised the British government for creating a “climate of fear” after the national library declined to store the world’s biggest collection of Taliban-related documents over concerns it could be prosecuted under terrorism laws.
A group of international researchers spent years putting together a trove of documents related to the Afghan Taliban, including official newspapers from their time in power, poems, maps, radio broadcasts, and several volumes of laws and edicts — digitising the estimated two-three million words and translating everything into English.
It was hoped the project, which was launched in 2012 and included members of the British Library on its advisory board, would prove an unprecedented resource for academics and officials trying to understand the movement and the ongoing insurgency in Afghanistan.
A spokeswoman confirmed the library was “not currently able to acquire a copy of the archive”.
“It is a large digitised archive which contains material that could contravene the Terrorism Act,” she said.
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From the BBC:
James Fitzgerald, a professor at Dublin City University and editor of the Critical Studies on Terrorism journal, said the library’s decision was “completely, completely ridiculous”.
He blamed the government saying its terrorism laws were making academics nervous about studying extremist groups.
“We’re already seeing the effects. Some lecturers don’t want to do modules on terrorism anymore because they don’t want to come under suspicion.”
The Terrorism Acts of 2000 and 2006 make it an offence to “collect material which could be used by a person committing or preparing for an act of terrorism” and criminalise the “circulation of terrorist publications”.
The Home Office declined to comment saying it was a matter for library.