Treasury Department Heeds Call by Publishers and Authors to Amend Syrian Sanctions Regulations
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.”
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About the AAUP:
The AAUP counts among its members 137 nonprofit scholarly publishers affiliated with research universities, scholarly societies, research institutions and museums located in 42 states. Collectively, they publish almost 15,000 books each year and over 1000 journals in virtually every field of human knowledge.
About the AAP/PSP:
PSP’s members publish the vast majority of materials used in the U.S. by scholars and professionals in science, medicine, technology, business law, reference, social science and the humanities. PSP is a division of AAP, the leading trade association of book publishers.
About PEN American Center:
Founded in 1922, PEN American Center works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. Its 3,500 distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and advancement of human rights of such past members as James Baldwin, Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck.
• Brenna McLaughlin, AAUP, email@example.com
• Marisa Bluestone, AAP, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Sarah Edkins, PEN American Center, email@example.com