Censorpedia: An Interactive Database of Censorship Incidents

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This Week's Featured Case


Artist: Ahmed Naji

Year: 2014

Date of Action: 2016

Region: Middle East

Location: Cairo, Egypt

Subject: Explicit Sexuality, Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Literature

Confronting Bodies: Egyptian censorship board

Description of Artwork: Ahmed Naji's novel, Using Life, anticipates a dystopian end for Cairo at the hands of a secretive group of architects. Naji wrote the experimental novel in collaboration with illustrator Ayman al-Zorqani. The novel is an experiment on the themes of sex and drugs in a context of censorship and persecution. Naji is recognized for his writings on contemporary art and indie music. Using Life is. Naji’s second novel; it has been curated into exhibitions, an animated film, and a multimedia performance.

The Incident: From Mada Masr, Dec 18, 2016: "Naji, a 31-year-old journalist, blogger and novelist, was imprisoned for “violating public modesty” in relation to a chapter of his hybrid graphic novel Istakhdem al-Haya (Using Life, 2014), after a reader filed a case against him, arguing that its sexually explicit content made him feel ill.

"A court acquitted Naji in December 2015, but on the prosecution’s appeal in February 2016 he was sentenced to the maximum term of two years and imprisoned immediately. Tarek al-Taher, chief editor of the state-affiliated Akhbar al-Adab magazine in which the novel was serialized, was sentenced to a LE10,000 fine in the same case.

"The move caused widespread outrage, from Egypt’s culture minister and fellow novelists to the international press, as a step further in a barrage of censorship, closures and imprisonment sweeping the political sphere. Many works of Arabic literature contain content of a sexual nature.

"Naji was awarded the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award in May this year."

Results of Incident: The novelist and journalist Ahmed Naji — along with his editor, Tarek al-Taher — was tried, and upon appeal, re-tried for the publication of an excerpt of his novel Using Life in Akhbar al-Adab. As of December 4, 2016, Naji remains in jail but is on the 2nd presidential pardon list.

UPDATE Dec 18: "The two-year prison sentence against writer Ahmed Naji, who has been jailed since February on charges of public indecency, was suspended on Sunday pending review on January 1, 2017." (Mada Masr, Dec 18, 2016)

Source: The Guide for "Use of Life" - دليل استخدام الحياة

URIs of the form "The Guide for "Use of Life" - دليل استخدام الحياة https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3Q7KbkxNnM%22 are not allowed.

Court suspends sentence against writer Ahmed Naji, release imminent: Lawyer, Mada Masr, Dec 18, 2016

Egyptian Novelist Jailed on Obscenity Charges to Be Released, By NOUR YOUSSEF, DEC. 18, 2016

Jailed Egyptian novelist Naji on 2nd presidential pardon list: Committee Member, Menna Alaa El-Din, al-Ahram, Sunday 4 Dec 2016

Three New Short-short Stories by Imprisoned Writer Ahmed Naji BY MLYNXQUALEY, Arabic Literature (in English) on DECEMBER 3, 2016

Egypt: Laughter in the Dark, Zadie Smith, New York Review of Books, Dec 2, 2016

‘Using Life’: A Novel Excerpt on Trial in Egypt, BY MLYNXQUALEY, Arabic Literature (in English) on JANUARY 25, 2016

Egyptian Novelist Ahmed Naji and Editor Tarek al-Taher Will Go Back to Court in ‘Public Morals’ Case, BY MLYNXQUALEY, Arabic Literature (in English) on JANUARY 13, 2016

What is Censorpedia?

Censorpedia is a crowdsourced online database of censorship cases within the arts and in culture. It is aimed at those researching censorship, at activists working for freedom of expression and at artists and other cultural producers whose expression has been subject to censorship or attempted censorship.

Censorpedia documents censorship incidents by providing the who, what, when, where and why. By providing a repository of information about what is vulnerable to censorship and about the strategies and tactics that have defeated previous’ censorship attempts, Censorpedia aids the fight for free expression.

Researchers can search for a specific case, year or keyword using the search box, as well as browse by medium, by grounds for censorship, or explore a random case.

Activists can search for ongoing cases or contribute a case that is ongoing or recently resolved.

Artists and cultural producers are similarly invited to add cases they are directly involved with or are familiar with first hand.

Censorpedia builds on the landmark 1994 art project The File Room, initiated by Muntadas.

For more information about censorship visit our Annotated Bibliography

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