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Last Updated: Friday, 13 April 2007, 03:51 GMT 04:51 UK
Australia censors terrorism books
By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney

Australia bomb disposal expert during a counter-terrorism raid
Australia is anxious to protect itself against the threat of terrorism
The Australian government has announced plans to outlaw material that advocates terrorism - a move designed to tighten its already strict censorship rules.

Books and films deemed to glorify terrorism will be removed from shelves and barred from entering the country.

The government says the changes are part of its zero tolerance policy towards terrorism.

But critics say they will lead to the censorship of material helpful to those wishing to understand radical Islam.

Present laws restrict the publication or dissemination of materials which promote, incite or instruct people to carry out terrorist acts.

The amended law would mark a significant extension of censorship powers, outlawing books and films deemed to speak out in favour of terrorist violence.

The new law would be targeted at removing the material from publication, rather than punishing its authors, and customs officers would be given much broader powers to confiscate books and films being imported into the country.

Civil libertarians have already been critical of the existing laws brought in by Prime Minister John Howard's government, allowing the forced removal of books, claiming they limit legitimate research into terrorism and its causes.

As the Australian Society of Authors put it: "We can't refute what we can't read".

But the government has dismissed these concerns, saying public safety overrides the issue of free speech.

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