A publishing mouse

February 9, 1996

Cambridge University Press has refused to publish a study of Macedonia on the grounds that it could provoke Greek terrorist reprisals. Its actions dismayed the author, Anastasia Karakasidou, and infuriated editorial board members Stephen Gudeman and Michael Herzfeld. They resigned, accused the press of censorship and demanded an academic boycott of CUP. Here the parties involved explain their positions.

The decision not to offer Anastasia Karakasidou a contract for her manuscript was very complicated. The press acted correctly, though in a situation where it had to choose between powerful but irreconcilable moral imperatives.

We were aware that Karakasidou had received death threats from a rightwing Greek organisation in the United States, and that an anonymous letter, postmarked Athens, threatened her with rape, while a Greek newspaper published her address and her car registration number. When Karakasidou took up a fellowship at Harvard, concerns for her safety led Michael Herzfeld to request special protection for her and for himself from the police (for he had spoken publicly in her defence).

The senior officers of the press were in no doubt that the manuscript was of high quality. Understandably they judged it necessary to make further inquiries on the security question. They took advice from the Greek office of CUP and from British officials in Greece, who warned us that publication might put at risk the lives of press staff in Greece. The Foreign Office was also consulted. Each drew attention to recent cases of terrorist violence against other foreign cultural institutions in Greece that were associated with what were perceived to be "anti-Greek" organisations.

The press syndicate had to decide, first, how significant the risks might be, and, second, if there was a risk to their personnel, whether publication should proceed. They came to the unanimous conclusion that publication might well put local employees at risk.

Herzfeld and Stephen Gudeman have suggested that other advice should have been sought, but even if this had been more equivocal about the risk, CUP, as a reasonable employer, would have found it difficult to ignore advice from those in the front line.

The press has as its statutory imperative the dissemination of knowledge, and no decision that might in any way compromise the integrity of that imperative would ever be countenanced lightly. It should be emphasised as a fundamental point of principle that there was no contract to publish.

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