In defense of academic freedom, teachers make ‘subversive’ books accessible

“If we are truly free and democratic, we allow our citizens to have free and open access to information for them to critically think about their decisions and fully participate in democratic processes and uphold human rights and social justice all of which are embedded in our constitution.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – In light of the pulling out of books from the libraries of universities, members of the academe developed a website where books deemed to be subversive by the government are uploaded and can be downloaded for free.

Kicking off the National Reading Month and the Library and Information Science month, Academics Unite for Democracy and Human Rights launched the website dubbed as “Multong Aklat Endangered Books Digital Archive,” on Monday, Nov. 1.

The digital archive has collection of published works by Karl Marx, Filipino authors like the late Alice Guillermo, martial law literature, and publications printed by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) that were recently pulled out by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) from libraries of some state colleges and universities.

The academe has strongly opposed this move of the NTF-ELCAC saying that “an attack on the library is an attack on the very heart of the University itself. It is an attack on the freedoms of thought and expression which are the very foundations of academic freedom.”

Read: ‘Purging of books is an attack on academic freedom’

There is also an ongoing online petition to protect libraries and universities from military and police incursion.

Supporters also expressed their solidarity to this call.

Dean Mary Grace Golfo-Barcelona of the UP School of Libraries and Information Studies (SLC) said libraries are a safe place in universities where students and researchers can conduct their studies.

Golfo-Barcelona reiterated that “libraries support democracy by providing equal opportunities for varying points of view to be discovered and considered by its readers.”

“If we are truly free and democratic, we allow our citizens to have free and open access to information for them to critically think about their decisions and fully participate in democratic processes and uphold human rights and social justice all of which are embedded in our constitution,” she added.

Julie Po, owner of Popular Bookstore, meanwhile, said that censoring libraries is backwardness. She said their book sales would show that only few people read books. Thus, she said, the government should encourage people to read.

“Teach people to read books and give them freedom to read whatever they want to read,” she said, adding that this can contribute to the betterment of society.

She expressed support to the call #HandsOffOurLibraries because as a bookstore that also offers publications, which are deemed “subversive,” she does not discount the possibility that the same incident will also happen to their bookstore.

Artist and designer Karl Castro meanwhile said that the government should keep away from the libraries. He challenged the NTF ELCAC to donate their entire budget to libraries and publishing.

“Let’s give people books for free instead of giving them away. Let’s see what will happen,” he added.

Castro said the digital archive is still a work in progress as more publications will be uploaded to the website for all to access and read. There are also other resources that they included in the website. He said censorship is also happening abroad.

The digital archive can be accessed here: https://handsoffourlibraries.crd.co/. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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