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Treasury drops editing ban on works from embargoed nations

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  1. Prior Restraint

    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Prior Restraints    

Treasury drops editing ban on works from embargoed nations

  • Obtaining permission from the U.S. government to collaborate with writers in Cuba, Iran and Syria is no longer required.

Dec. 17, 2004 — American editors, publishers and writers are free to edit the work of or collaborate with authors living in Cuba, Iran and Syria without violating U.S. trade embargoes under a new rule from the Bush administration.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control had barred such collaborative work without U.S. government licensing under rules setting out terms of U.S. embargoes against the three countries.

“OFAC’s previous guidance was interpreted by some as discouraging the publication of dissident speech from within these oppressive regimes. That is the opposite of what we want,” Stuart Levey, the department’s undersecretary for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

The new rule, which took effect Friday and does not change U.S. embargoes, allows collaboration on “manuscripts, books, journals and newspapers, in paper or electronic format.” The new rule allows anyone in the United States to edit and co-author works; pay advances to authors; add artwork, photographs, translation or explanatory text; and create marketing campaigns.

“If I’m a newspaper editor editing an op-ed piece by an Iranian journalist, do I have the same worries I had four months ago? No. Do I have any worries? Basically, no,” said Kevin Goldberg, an attorney for the American Society of Newspaper Editors, which protested the rules along with other groups.

The rule change comes three months after the Association of American Publishers and other groups sued the U.S. government in federal district court in New York, arguing that OFAC’s old rule violated the First Amendment and a 1988 law exempting information materials from trade embargoes.

Last month, another suit was filed by Iranian Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who sued the government for blocking publication of her memoirs in the United States.

The lawsuit is likely moot under the new rule, Goldberg said.


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© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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