Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Reaffirming free expression and the right for information

Reaffirming free expression and the right for information

All after watching "Library Defence Force"
and its relation to the controversial Cybercrime law, FoI bill
and the people's willingness to defend internet freedom
and the right to information

Source: Genkinahito

Some fictions are based on actual statements, if not events and people, that made its makers inspired to create as an elaboration of those.

It was yesterday when this writer had watched a movie before bedtime, watching a movie seemed to help him sleepy especially after a midnight meal and some writing stuff. There were few DVDs to watch, most of them are comedy though, yet one of which seemed to be quite interesting.

Bought from a pirated DVD stall, Library Defence Force, or in Japanese, Tokoshan Sensō, is more than just a story about a booklover whom end joining in a paramilitary group out of her love for books and reading. Quite relating though isn't it? especially that this writer also loves books and even reminds of the days he had to pay fines during his college days out of reading books and exceeding in days prescribed, and even hiding books of controversial nature to prevent being caught. But that latter matter is a long and different story to discuss over.

And like any other Japanese movie, seems that producers turned the original comic book tale into a story just like "Death Note" or "Battle Royale", citing some of Japan's Movies often came from Manga comics and Anime. And like "Battle Royale", it had emphasised on the use arms and killing, but the difference lies a dystopic setting such as a law that imposes much restrictions in the flow of media, that includes book confiscation, burning, and paramilitary men trying to impose the so-called "Media Betterment Act" in bookstores and in websites. That somehow made Iku Lasahara, the book-loving protagonist, joined a paramilitary group, known as the Library Defense Force (LDF) to counter those whom initiate book confiscations, burning, and harassment of readers like her.

According to the story, LDF was made not just in respose to the Media Betterment Act and the councils formed in accordance to the passed law. But behind the story itself comes with actual statements concerning the right to inform, as according to Wikipedia:

The background of the plot is actually based on the Statement on Intellectual Freedom in Libraries that went into effect in Japan in 1954 (amended in 1979), and the terms are a little different from the Freedom of the Library Law that appears in Toshokan Sensō.
The simplified declaration:

It is the most important responsibility of libraries to offer collected materials and library facilities to the people who have the Right to Know as one of their fundamental human rights. In order to fulfill their mission, libraries shall recognize the following matters as their proper duties, and shall put them into practice.

1.) Libraries have freedom in collecting their materials.
2.) Libraries secure the freedom of offering their materials.
3.) Libraries guarantee the privacy of users.
4.) Libraries oppose any type of censorship categorically.

When the freedom of libraries is imperiled, we librarians will work together and devote ourselves to secure the freedom.

In Toshokan Sensō, the fourth chapter of the Freedom of Library Law states:

30.) Libraries have freedom in collecting their materials.
31.) Libraries secure the freedom of offering their materials.
32.) Libraries guarantee the privacy of users.
33.) Libraries oppose any type of improper censorship categorically.
34.) When the freedom of libraries is imperiled, we librarians will work together and devote ourselves to secure the freedom.

The details will be amended anytime according to the Media Betterment Act and its enforcement.

Quite fascinating though to have an actual law being used as a basis for the Manga. That, in response to the rapid book confiscations, burnings, and harassments made in the name of order, some local governments opposed to the Media Betterment Act created self-defense groups, and had been eventually being called as Library Defence Force.

Obviously, the movie, regardless of being fiction, also reminds of man's freedom of expression, and it's up to them whether they put into the test what they had read or leave it nothing but a reading matter limited to scholastic work. But to restrain the right to read, same as right to speech, press and other form of expression, seemed to be a mockery of freedoms being fought for: especially during the times when people had to protest in response to the controversial Cybercrime law after its passage. The said law, like the story's Media Betterment Act is one example of restricting man's desire to read and informed whether in a form of a book or this page itself.
That somehow it had been consistently opposed by many. Both the Media Betterment Act from the movie and the actual Cybercrime law shared the same intentions such as protecting the reader and the viewer. It happened that the former encompasses media in general, from books to the internet while Cybercrime law focused much in the internet with the controversial online libel much being featured. Both laws had insisted censorship, orders arrests against writers, shutting down sites, and with the former, burning down books with topics detrimental to social order such as novels related to murder. In fact, this writer expressed the same aspirations as the protagonist of the said movie that no one has to block free flow of ideas in a society that used to banner freedom and democracy. And Writers have their right to express thought, also knew how to regulate themselves and their work.

But unlike the movie that speaks about protecting every written work against censorship through a paramilitary unit of booklovers, bloggers, internet enthusiasts, stood altogether to counter possible actions made by the controversial law. Months ago came protests both online and at Supreme Court that resulted to a Temporary Restraining Order and hence continuously calling for its scrapping. Those whom taking to the extreme involves hacking government websites knowing that they are also supportive of the law that would arrest online writers, critics, for its hard hitting statements and relabeling it as cyberlibel as such.

However, last February 18, 2014, The Supreme Curt ruled the online libel provision of the act to be constitutional, although it struck down other provisions, including the ones that violated the provisions on double jeopardy. The petitioners planned to appeal the decision. Like the Media Betterment Act from the movie would say that this also means censorship. How wondering that the system, instead of passing the overdued "Freedom of Information act" rather chose to impose instead a bill that means restricting man's right to express through the use of today's paperless press like the internet. Speaking of "Freedom of Information act", it also shared same ideas as the fictional "freedom of the Libraries law", citing the people's right to gain information and the state's duty to give accurate information in the name of accountability and transparency. And Groups like Kabataan partylist, National Press Club, and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines expressed support over FoI and opposition over Cybercrime law regardless of the state's intentions behind supporting the latter while treating FoI as a rhetoric. So was the movie itself this writer had watched, trying to speak about freedom and order according to the Media Betterment Act yet actually imposing censorship such as confiscating books and book burning.
Strange that this writer sees the outcome such as the actial Cybercrime law having the same procedure as the one from the story he had watched, and as said earlier, shutting down sites, even confiscating hardware and arresting those whom did "cyberlibel" out of exposing the truth coming from facts would be the possible scenario.

And if so, then expect more like those of Iku Kasahara willing to defend against censorship or Guy Fawkes and his explosive actions against a decadent, rotting system controlling the state.