I am writing to you on behalf of the National Coalition Against Censorship, a national coalition of over 50 organizations dedicated to promoting the First Amendment right to free speech. It just came to our attention that you are considering canceling a scheduled screening of Fragments of a Lost Palestine because of some complaints.
A decision to cancel the film because of some people's disagreement with the political viewpoints expressed in it as well as with the political viewpoint of the presenting organization raises serious First Amendment concerns. We strongly urge you to proceed with the screening as planned and offer a forum where opposing viewpoints can be voiced.
Conversations about the Middle East may be fraught with emotion, but that is no reason to suppress them: in fact, most of the issues that touch us socially, culturally and politically are fraught with emotion. If we cannot discuss such issues in a public library, out commitment to free speech is weak indeed.
The film itself is certainly worth showing - it has screened at various venues around the country and has been reviewed in the national press. For a public library to cancel a scheduled screening of the film is similar to a decision to remove a book from its collection because its viewpoint is disagreeable to some. Besides its First Amendment implications, such a decision can open the library to a flood of complaints and undermine its public credibility.
I hope you decide to proceed with the scheduled screening and avoid making the library a target for bad publicity and accusations of censorship.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Svetlana Mintcheva, Ph.D. Director of Programs National Coalition Against Censorship 19 Fulton Street Ste 407 New York, NY 10038 phone 212-807-6222 ext. 103 fax 212-807-6245
The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), founded in 1974, is an alliance of 50 national non-profit organizations, including literary, artistic, religious, educational, professional, labor, and civil liberties groups. United by a conviction that freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression must be defended, we work to educate our own members and the public at large about the dangers of censorship and how to oppose them.