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Censorship in Algeria--Open Letter to Zeroual

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  • Censorship in Algeria--Open Letter to Zeroual

    President of Algeria Liamine Zeroual

    Ref.: Censorship in Algeria

    Dear President Zeroual:

    I have the honor to address you in order to install in the public debate one of the most glaring civil and human rights violations experienced in the electronic age by researchers and scholars in less developed countries: the boycott of the rights to practice scientific research, to communicate and be scholarly informed.
    As is worldwide known, since the Renaissance, scientific knowledge is experiencing an irreversible and unbridled fragmentation; and since the hegemony of Neoliberal policies, an increasing privatization process. Paradoxically, to cope these universal phenomenons, while in the First World students and researchers suffer an increasing information overload that intoxicates their harts and minds causing them deep stress and scepticism, in the peripheral world students and scholars are subject to information anaemia and electronic garbage pollution. The strong need to break this triple symptom (illness, apartheid and censorship), and therefore the need to revert the fragmentation and privatization trends that are undermining the formation of an electronically enlightened global elite and hindering the struggle against the violation of academic freedoms --to which research institutions in less developed countries are subjected with respect to paid licenses of full-text and online journals-- is becoming every day more demanding, to such a degree that an appeal for an international solidarity has become imperative.
    This letter is submitted with the purpose of promoting debate as to what extent the practice of scientific research should or should not be regarded as a fundamental civil and human right, to what degree electronic information for academic study should be subject to democratic deliberation and scientific priorities rather than to market forces and business profits, and how the scientific institutions of less developed countries could reach the electronic connections and the paid electronic licenses to periodical journals published online. It is my hope that unlimited access to electronic information firmly combined with more democratic intellectual practices, that should help to overcome the universal fragmentation of knowledge, has to be raised and endorsed as a legitimate demand in the struggle against commercial-academic censorships and new types of monopolized knowledge and on behalf of academic freedoms, extended democracy, and the principles of open communication and education and equal opportunities worldwide.
    The relevance of these online and full-text journals for the progress of scientific research and for any country that wants to engage in science and research activities as a platform for an economic and cultural takeoff (such were the cases of Ireland and Finland) should be considered obvious. However, Algerian scholars find themselves in circumstances similar to those experienced by the most backward and oppressed European and Middle East countries during the Renaissance --when Gutenberg invented the printing press-- being condemned to continue using parchment, papyrus and clay tablets. Moreover, the amazing electronic incommunication or censorship to which Algerian scholars are subjected by corrupt governments has relatively increased in the recent times because the number of paid subscriptions to online Databases has skyrocketed while the percentage of free access scientific sites have dramatically decreased.
    Moreover, the contradiction and the hypocrisy of less developed governments could partially be undone if superfluous expenses be punished, and if their budgets could be reassigned. Adversely, research institutions permanently suffer budget cuts and incur extra expenses, that should be reallocated. These state research institutions have sistematically boycotted the paid subscription to those online Databases, monopolized by multinational electronic editors, such as J-Store, Pro-Quest, Elsevier, Carfax, Sage, Kluwer, Blackwell, II Mulino, Swets Backsets Service, Frank Cass, Chadwyck-Healy, Bell Howell, Gale´s Ready Reference Shelf, Project Muse, CERN Library, Spring Harbour Laboratory Press, Allen Press, MALMAD, and Medline among many other Databases.
    However, governments in these less developed countries persist in giving priority to the resolution of the financial gap with institutions of international banking, without any respect whatsoever to the scientific and cultural censorship we are experiencing, condemning their scholars to practice a marginal and obsolete science, unable to compete with the cutting edge research of central countries. This contradictory practice and this hypocrisy in discourses, that no crisis can justify, looks down on science, leads to a persistent brain drain, and makes it impossible for young scholars living in the First World to return to their countries of origin. Finally, we appeal to your solidarity, urging you to debate within your country any kind of ideas susceptible of supporting this struggle.
    As one of thousands of isolated scholars in less developed countries, the obstacles and difficulties to reach and challenge international organizations, multinational electronic editors and corrupt governments are infinite and overwhelming. Therefore, I got convinced that this is not merely an academic or legal issue, as has been presented by the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), but essentially a political issue and that the only way to raise it successfully and at a global scale is to appeal to those who have become internationally acknowledged as perseverant defenders of human rights. Hence, I have sent this message to Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Jesse Jackson, Mary Robinson, Edward Kennedy, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder, the world statesmen to whom any scholar and research institution in less developed nations could trust the defense of these new kind of rights. As an historical corroboration, in countries of Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America --like Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Palestine and Argentina, where more elementary human rights were traumatically violated-- they showed to the world how decisive and sacred have been their commitments.
    I have sent this message to hundreds of Associations, Academies, scientific institutions, and communication and education departments at European, Australian and Northamerican universities; and to associations, journals, newspapers and forums that belong to Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Eastern Europe. However, I feel that my capacity to summon an international collective will has reached its limits.
    Yours truly,
    Eduardo R. Saguier
    Senior Researcher (CONICET, Argentina)

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