Here’s an update to a post titled, “American Publisher, Author Groups Call For Revision of Federal Regulation Prohibiting Publication of Books, Articles Written by Syrian Authors” that we shared on January 22, 2015.
A coalition of leading publisher and author associations today commended the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department for an amendment to the Syrian Sanctions Regulations permitting the publishing and marketing of manuscripts, books, journals, and newspapers from the war-torn nation under a general license.
In January 2015, the Association of American University Presses (AAUP), the Association of American Publishers Professional and Scholarly Publishers division (AAP/PSP), and PEN American Center wrote a joint letter to OFAC requesting that it revise the trade regulations that effectively prohibited American publishers from publishing and marketing books and articles by Syrian authors and scholars.
“As the Syrian war drags into its fifth year, cutting off Syrian writers, scholars and scientists from access to the outside world only reinforces their sense of isolation and despair,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN American Center. “While these revisions are a step in the right direction, the application of OFAC sanctions to publishing in any form is counterproductive—the arts should be exempt from OFAC sanctions entirely.”
In 2004, OFAC revised similar trade sanctions governing works by authors in Iran, Cuba, and the Sudan to resolve a legal action brought by AAUP, AAP/PSP, and PEN. The Department created a general license permitting all publishers to engage in any transactions “necessary and ordinarily incident to” publishing and marketing written works from those countries with limited exceptions, including broadly defined “government works.”
“In light of the important First Amendment values at stake, Congress twice passed laws making clear that the regulation of information or informational materials must be limited by the public interest in communication,” said Mark Seeley of Elsevier, an academic publishing company of medical and scientific literature. “The broad definition of ‘government works’ contained in the general licenses for written publications for Iran and Cuba and now repeated in the new provision for Syria may imperil the U.S. publication of many valuable political and scientific journal articles and books.”
“It is imperative that writers and scholars from countries wrestling with the negative forces of dictatorship and religious extremism, like Syria, are included in the global conversation,” said Peter Berkery, Executive Director of AAUP. “We are eager to remove any and all hurdles to the free flow of information between our societies.”
See Also: Learn More, Read the Amendment (via USTreasury.gov and Federal Register)
The amendment was published in the Federal Register on April 13, 2015.