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Challenging Censorship, Celebrating Free Speech

Release Date: May 5, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In light of recent rapid, historic and often unprecedented developments in laws and attitudes regarding censorship, the University at Buffalo Humanities Institute and the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library have teamed up to speak directly to the public about the meaning and consequences of these profound changes.

"Challenging the New Censorship" is a three-part series that will be presented over the next year. It will be the first event in the Celebration of the Book series, a new initiative of the Humanities Institute exploring the richness of Buffalo's thriving community of independent writers and small presses.

The series' first program, "Read It While You Can: Challenging the New Censorship and Celebrating Free Speech," will take place from 1-5:30 p.m. May 13 in the first floor of the Central Library, 1 Lafayette Square. It will be free of charge and open to the public.

"This event will bring together local authors, activists and scholars to explore the pervasive and controversial phenomenon of censorship, an issue that is very much in the news today," says Martha Malamud, Ph.D., associate dean of the UB College of Arts and Sciences and executive director of the Humanities Institute.Attorney Patrick Martin, general legal counsel for the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library and a member of the advisory board of the Humanities Institute, says the program will address such new practices as the collaboration of information technology companies with the Chinese government and others.

"We will consider U.S. government investigations of the media for leaks of classified material, coincident with government sanction of its own leaks of classified material," Martin says.

"We also will discuss riots over cartoon images, the editing of official scientific studies by nonscientists and the new emphasis on government propaganda and surveillance," he says. "Such behavior and policies threaten the future of free speech.

"In fact, today truth itself appears to be facing historic threats. The purpose of this series is to examine what is happening and why -- and consider where we may be headed."

The program will begin at 1 p.m. with a screening of the original 1953 television broadcast of "See It Now," in which journalist Edward R. Murrow issued a public broadside against the political hegemony of anti-communist crusader Sen. Joseph McCarthy. This broadcast is the program upon which George Clooney based his award-winning 2005 film "Good Night and Good Luck."

A commentary by Bruce Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel L. Capen Professor of American Culture, UB departments of English and American Studies, will accompany the screening.

The screening will be followed at 1:30 p.m. by a panel discussion, "Examining the New Censorship," moderated by Martin.

Panelists will be Jackson; Chris Finan, president, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; Rich Kellman, senior correspondent, WGRZ-TV News, and John Curr, executive director, Western New York Office of the New York State Civil Liberties Union and host of "Radio Civil Liberties," which airs on Newstalk Radio, WHLD 1270-AM.

At 3:30 p.m., there will be a "Buffalo Authors Coffeehouse" moderated by Jon Welch, owner of Talking Leaves bookstore, that will feature readings by winners of the Just Buffalo/Buffalo News "Big Read" essay contest.

The readers will be local artist and writer Julian Montague; Kari Winter, UB associate professor of American studies; Hershini Bhana Young, UB assistant professor of English; Ted Pelton, professor and chair, humanities department, Medaille College, and local poet Christopher Fritton.

During these events, the UB Poetry Collection will present an exhibition of small-press publications -- one of the many collections for which it is internationally recognized. Talking Leaves will present a book signing by the "Big Read" authors, as well as a book sale.

The censorship series will continue in the fall with a program titled "On the Front Lines: Journalists Assess the New Censorship" and will end next spring with a program titled "Censorship and the Future of Information Technology."

Media Contact Information

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