"Pornfire" in EdinburghIn late November of 1999, Edinburgh Council announced "16 days of protest against violence against women". Along with workhops, personal safety training and more predictable items, their poster listed:
Thursday December 2nd:
Friday December 10
The poster stated that the campaign was co-ordinated by Scottish Women's Action Network and supported by Edinburgh City Council, with further info available from the Equality Unit.
A few folks in Edinburgh, finding it disturbing that council funds were being used to promote anti-sex censorship, made a few phone calls and on 1 December sent this letter to the press, which appeared in The Herald and in The Daily Telegraph the next day.
This month, Edinburgh City Council (in conjunction with Scottish Women's Action Network) are using public funds to promote a torchlit political demonstration followed by a public book-burning. They may be calling it a "PORNFIRE ", but let us be clear about it: Scottish Campaign Against Pornography are burning books and magazines they disagree with on Calton Hill this Thursday.
The occasion of this event, with its echoes of bookburnings at Berlin, is "Sixteen Days of Action against violence against women". Nobody wants to oppose such a worthy cause, and indeed we unreservedly condemn violence against anyone. However, there is a second programme being promoted by this campaign; an attack upon our freedom of speech and thought, justified by an assertion that pornography causes violence against women. Violence against women pre-dates pornography. Violence against women is endemic in countries and cultures that have the strictest of censorship laws (such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan). Studies have repeatedly failed to demonstrate a link between pornography and violence against women.
We do not agree with the politics of censorship; regardless of whether it is presented as gagging pornographers or defending public morals, it subverts the basic right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. Burning books of any kind, whether they are pornography or prayer books, is wrong.
We believe that Edinburgh City Council has no business providing support for politically-motivated book-burnings and witch hunts that attempt to blame society's ills on an unpopular group. We call on the Council to respect the civil rights of all citizens equally, and to distance itself from the politics of intolerance. Expressing indignation about violence against women is not an acceptable justification for abolishing freedom of expression.
For further information, see http://www.cluefactory.org.uk/freespeech/
Mr. Yaman Akdeniz, Director - Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK)