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Vol. 81/No. 47      December 18, 2017

(lead article)

Join fight to overturn ban against ‘Militant’!

“By refusing to allow prisoners to read the Militant, the Literature Review Committee is depriving individuals of their constitutional right to read material of their choosing,” says a Dec. 1 letter from PEN America, backing the Militant’s fight against the decision of Florida prison officials to repeatedly impound the Militant this year.

“Although every issue of the Militant covers public protests and encourages workers to back protests that advance their interests, the Militant does not suggest or incite rebellion against prison institutions or the government.”

The impoundment of the Nov. 6 issue of the paper is the ninth time this year the paper has been prevented from reaching its dozens of subscribers in Florida’s 16 prisons. Any time authorities at any Florida prison seizes a copy of the Militant, they are removed from subscribers at all state institutions.

The Militant has appealed every act of censorship and the Literature Review Committee overturned four of the first seven impoundments and upheld three. The committee will review the impoundment of the Nov. 6 issue, as well as the seizure of the Oct. 30 issue.

Prison officials impounded the Oct. 30 issue because it reported on the Militant’s appeal of Florida prison censorship of yet another issue of the paper, even though the Literature Review Committee has overturned the impoundment of previous issues banned on the same basis.

The impoundment of the Nov. 6 issue is even more serious. Unlike previous impoundment notices, this one makes the outrageous claim that the entire paper is “dangerously inflammatory in that it advocates or encourages riot, insurrection” and “may lead to the use of physical violence.” Florida authorities give no reason for this belief, merely listing four pages in the issue.

The nine impoundments this year “are at least twice as many as in the prior decade in Florida, and twice as many as in the rest of the nation, state and federal combined,” David Goldstein, the Militant’s lawyer, of the well-known civil liberties law firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman, states in his Dec. 4 appeal of the ban.

The censoring of the latest issues is “difficult to understand as anything other than a highly improper intensifying effort by the Florida Department of Corrections,” Goldstein wrote, “to target the Militant for unconstitutional and arbitrary content-based and viewpoint-based censorship.”

Jefferson Correctional Institution prison officials also charged that the Militant “encourages protesting and group disruption.”

One article on the pages cited is headlined, “Protest US Economic War Against Cuban Revolution!” and the other pages feature ads promoting a “Rally and march for silver miners on strike” in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and a “Rally to defend Cuban Revolution at the United Nations” in New York.

Goldstein points out that the Literature Review Committee overturned the impoundment of the Sept. 11 issue, which prison officials had singled out because of a front-page article that reported and advocated protests against racism. He also noted that in 2013 and 2016 the Literature Review Committee overturned attempts to censor the paper for reporting on prisoner hunger strikes and protests in California.

In addition to PEN America, Amnesty International USA, New York’s Riverside Church Prison Ministry and Miami-based Alianza Martiana, a coalition of Cuban-American groups, have sent letters to the Literature Review Committee, and more are on their way.

Alianza Martiana said that the prison authorities “have violated the letter and spirit of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Amnesty International points out that the impoundment violates not only the Constitution, but also the United Nations Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners, commonly known as the Mandela Rules, after South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.

“Prisoners are fellow workers behind bars,” said Militant editor John Studer. “They have a right to read about the world we live in, to consider different views, to form their own opinions. Prison authorities have no right to ban views they disagree with.

“We are not going to stop supporting the struggles of working people around the world and urging readers, including those behind bars, to take a stand,” Studer said. “Our fight against arbitrary and unconstitutional censorship in Florida strengthens everyone’s right to free speech and for freedom of the press.”
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Guantánamo prisoners’ art brings threats from US gov’t
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