The International Publishers Association (IPA) has condemned New Zealand’s temporary ban of Ted Dawe’s YA novel Into the River, saying freedom of expression is a “universal human right”.
IPA president Richard Charkin said: “The IPA supports and applauds the book’s publisher Penguin Random House and the Publishers Association of New Zealand in their stand against this dangerous and unnecessary attempt to throttle an author’s voice.”
It is surprising that New Zealand, “one of the most democratic countries in the world”, decided to implement the ban, he added.
The ban was announced earlier this month after Christian charity Family First objected to the book, which is about a boy's experience at boarding school. It contains “detailed descriptions of sex acts, coarse language and scenes of drug-taking”, according to New Zealand’s Board of Film and Literature Review. Individuals caught distributing the book will face a fine of $3,000 (£1,370) and companies who breach the order will be fined $10,000 (£4,570).
The book's publisher Penguin Random House New Zealand, has expressed its disappointment with the ban. A spokesperson said: "Penguin Random House believes that young people benefit from having access to coming of age books that help them to understand the complex society in which they live."
While New Zealand Book Council said it was “alarmed” by the decision to impose the interim order, saying it will “set a dangerous precedent, which could lead to more books being restricted in New Zealand”.
Silent readings of the book have taken place across New Zealand in protest at the decision and Auckland’s Time Out Bookstore has made a window display of banned books in defiance of the ban.
The IPA secretary general, José Borghino said: “Into the River has garnered much praise for dealing with difficult issues such as bullying and racism in a language that teenagers not only relate to, but actually want to read. To ban a book because it is realistic about modern relationships sends an outrageous signal to the world.”
The rule will stay in place until the board, which is due to next meet in October, makes a final decision over whether the book can be distributed in the country or not.
Into the River was voted the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year in 2013.