Friday, March 09, 2012

Dutch government threatens with censorship: publishing needs export permit

De Volkskrant reported this morning very worrying news. Dutch minister Bleker threatens Dutch researchers to censor them, based on the idea that publishing is exporting knowledge, and therefore needs a permit from his department. One has to realize this is in the context of the flu mutation research in Rotterdam (see H5N1, and this Nature item), but such censorship threat is unacceptable, and is a direct attack on science.

Bleker (@HenkBleker) is the Dutch underminister for economics. De Volkskrant writes:

"Geheel terloops gaf Bleker aan dat hij een nieuw machtsmiddel denkt te hebben om publicatie tegen te houden. Publicatie staat voor hem gelijk aan export van gevoelige kennis en daarvoor is een vergunning nodig."

which translates to:

"Bleker indicates he believes he can use a means of power to stop the publication: publication is to him equal to export of knowledge for which a permit is required."

Very much like you need to export military weapons. For him it makes no difference for this reasoning if the publication itself is with a foreign (Nature, Science) or a Dutch (Elsevier, local newspaper) publisher.

The virus image is in the public domain and available from Wikipedia.

Oops... I forgot to get an export permit!


  1. This... Can't possibly be sustained, surely?

    I mean, this would mean that you would have to have an export permit to talk to people, or just to move, since moving could be used to encode knowledge exportation.

  2. Ian, I doubt he can. But the mere suggestion that he may want to use economic law to censor scholarly research and that he wants to overrule international, academic consensus is outrageous.

  3. In old USSR time we did have the same. Some kind of agreement still needed for publication even now, but now it's more then formality.