There are still more than 130 prohibited publications in the Cayman Islands.
And, as last week was the American Library Association Banned Books Week, HRC Chairman James Austin-Smith took time to explain to Cayman 27’s Kevin Morales why his organisation is eager to spread the word on the dangers of banning books.
“It effectively censors freedom of political expression,” Mr. Austin-Smith said. “You stop people from actually looking at them, analysing them and forming their own views — that may be thought to be even more dangerous than allowing the publication to be seen.”
The Prohibited Publications Order was passed in 1977 but has been amended as recently as 1998. Many of the publications it lists are political, religious, adult in nature or deal with the occult.
“It’s not just the Cayman Islands that’s done it,” Austin-Smith said. “Look to countries in western Europe. The UK has done it and done it very recently. The US — leader in freedom of expression it might be thought of — banned all sorts of books you’d be quite surprised about.”
Some of the books once banned in the US include The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Alice Through the Looking Glass. Now, those are required reading in many US schools, showing how perception over certain topics change over time.
Mr. Austin-Smith says the more books the better if Cayman’s students are to keep up with their peers around the world.
“You encourage reading because it broadens education, it encourages critical thinking,” he said. “But if at the same time you’ve got laws on the statute book that say, ‘no, you can’t read this and you can’t look at that and, no, you can’t analyse that document,’ that’s very much contrary to that goal.”
Those at the HRC say they hope by speaking out, some of the publications now banned in Cayman may end up on the library shelves.