Prison d'Afrique

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Date: 1977

Region: Europe

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Literature

Artist: Jean-Paul Alata (1924 - 1978)

Confronting Bodies: The French government of Charles de Gaulle

Dates of Action: 1977

Location: France


Description of Artwork: Alata's book, Prison d'Afrique, describes the inhumane conditions that prisoners in Guinea suffered.

The Incident: Alata was once an advisor to Guinean President, Sekou Toure. In 1970 he was arrested for allegedly plotting against the state. Without charge or trial, he went to prison for five years, and witnessed conditions that he compared to Nazi brutality. He documented his experience in his book after he returned to France in 1975. The French government siezed his book, claiming that it violated the "de provenance etrangere" clause of French press law, which allows the government to ban work by foreign authors. However, Alata wrote the book in French, it was written while he lived in France and Alata held a French passport. The government also suggested that the publication of the book could disrupt French-Guinean relations.

Results of Incident: The French government siezed the book and asserted that since it was an issue of foreign relations, the government had jurisdiction over the courts in this matter of censorship. Letters of protest from the publisher, Editions du Seuil, and The League of Human and Civil Rights, were ignored by the Ministry of Foreign Relations. The book was then published in Belgium. The French ban was lifted in 1982

Source: Censorship, A World Encyclopedia, ed. D Jones