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New law in Arkansas, USA, criminalizes access to books

Washington, Jun 4 (Prensa Latina) With the increase in requests in the United States to restrict or prohibit books, there is now also the risk that Arkansas librarians will be prosecuted if they provide material qualified by some as objectionable.

A new law enacted in that state, which will take effect next August, ends a protection that exempted library workers and educators from prosecution if they used texts or provided literature that someone might find objectionable.

It also makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison, for librarians and booksellers to distribute what has been defined as a “harmful article” to a child or adolescent.

Faced with the new provisions, a group made up of libraries, independent bookstores and publishers filed a lawsuit alleging that the edict “forces those entities to self-censor in a way that is against their main purposes.”

“This is a case that has broad implications not only for the ability to access materials in Arkansas libraries, but also for the general tenets of our democracy,” Skye Perryman, executive director of the nonprofit organization, said of the situation. for-profit Democracy Forward.

If this law were to go into effect, librarians could face jail time for failing to take steps that flagrantly violate the US Constitution and also Arkansas’, she added, quoted by The New York Times.

Allison Hill, executive director of the American Booksellers Association, a trade association for independent booksellers, said the new law could have a chilling effect, leading to a “Wild West where anyone can oppose any book, and a bookseller could end up with a criminal record”.

According to the American Library Association, there were more efforts (1,269) to withdraw titles from libraries in 2022 than ever before, and almost double the number from the previous year.

An April report by free-speech organization PEN America found 4,000 book removal requests since the group began tracking those requests in July 2021.

Most of the challenged volumes include themes or characters from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer community, or address issues related to racism.

In Florida, on April 10, a graphic novel based on the diary of Holocaust victim Anne Frank was removed from the Vero Beach High School library after a parent complained, local media reported.

Also, according to the Los Angeles Times, one of the 15 most banned books in schools this year is The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas, which is about a teenager who witnesses how a police officer kills her best friend. Childhood friend.


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