Murray’s ‘Murder in Samarkand’ banned in Uzbekistan?

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  • #91185 Reply

      I run the Banned Books Museum in Tallinn, and a visitor recently gifted us a copy of Craig Murray’s book Murder in Samarkand because he says it was banned in Uzbekistan. I want to add it to my collection, but I can’t find concrete evidence of this ban (only of the freedom of information publishing difficulties it originally had in the UK). I emailed Murray directly, but no answer. Anyone have any idea if it was actually banned in Uzbekistan?

      #91210 Reply

        *** MODS! ***

        Anyone got a reply to this? Any chance of getting a reply from Craig?

        #91223 Reply

          Moderators have no access to privileged information about the book or its listed status in other countries, so we are in no position to offer a definitive answer.

          Although there is no evidence of Murder in Samarkand (US: Dirty Diplomacy) being named individually on a list of banned books in Uzbekistan, it isn’t necessarily available for purchase there either. In an article on Karimov’s regime (16 Apr 2010), Craig pointed out “in practice all books are banned – that is the default position. A small number are on an allowed list”.

          Some policy changes were made under the post-Karimov administration – although the rights as declared may not be granted in practice (see “You Can’t See Them, but They’re Always There” – Censorship and Freedom of the Media in Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch, 3 Mar 2018) and recent reports suggest a tightening of restrictions (Uzbek Poet Gets Suspended Prison Term For Importing ‘Banned’ Books, Radio Free Europe, 18 Oct 2019). You could try contacting one of the bookstores in Tashkent to ask whether the book is available for purchase there.

          The UK government made several attempts to censor the text and block its publication. When Craig wrote to the FCO to request clearance in advance, he cautioned that banning books greatly increased their appeal (“Happy molehunting” – Craig Murray sends his memoirs to the UK Foreign Office, 25 Sep 2005). He made multiple changes and redactions to appease FCO qualms, but when the book was due for printing the FCO tried to block publication by asserting copyright over some evidential documents contained within (which were available online or had been formally released under Freedom of Information and Data Protection laws, so were arguably already in the public domain). Craig challenged their intransigence in a memo submitted to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Public Administration (5 Mar 2006):

          Let me be quite plain about the current situation. The FCO has stated that it will not “Ban” the book, but that if it is published it will sue under Crown Copyright. That is an effective deterrent to any publisher, whose purpose is to run a business publishing books, not to conduct extremely expensive litigation. So in fact their aggressive attitude does amount to a ban.
               [ … ]
               I would conclude that, if the government or an individual wishes to take legal action against me over my book over alleged libel or a breach of the Official Secrets Act, that is a perfectly legitimate course of action and to be decided in court. But I do not view the aggressive use of Crown Copyright or confidentiality, in effect to block publication, to be legitimate in the case outlined above.
               Book banning is in itself pernicious and should always be specifically justified. Where there are two parties to a dispute, for one party to use an arbitrary authority to suppress a book about the dispute by the other party, leaves a nasty smell.

          Craig eventually circumvented the Crown Copyright by excising the documents from the manuscript, thereby avoiding litigation directed at the publishing house (Mainstream). Instead, he made those documents available on this blog as well as on multiple mirror sites (see Damning documentary evidence unveiled. Dissident bloggers in coordinated expose of UK government lies over torture, 29 Dec 2005). The saga was reported in The Courier (Everyone has regrets: An interview with Craig Murray, 4 Mar 2006) and The Washington Post, which ran a story on it (Banned in Britain, 4 Sep 2006) alongside his own testimony (Her Majesty’s Man in Tashkent, 4 Sep 2006).

          Interestingly, the book was also reportedly confiscated by customs officers at British airports (What price freedom?, The Guardian, 9 Sep 2006).

          For his next book – The Catholic Orangemen of Togo – Craig chose to avoid lawfare tactics designed to intimidate publishing companies by publishing it himself.

          If anyone manages to find further information pertaining to restrictions (in any country) on Murder in Samarkand, kindly update this page accordingly.

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