FRFI defeats prison censorship

In the last issue of FRFI we reported that at least two prisoners at Belmarsh high security prison in south London had been stopped from receiving copies of the paper. The prison has now been forced to back down, as have other high security prisons which also tried to withhold the paper from prison subscribers.

Initially, Belmarsh argued, absurdly, that Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! is a racist publication. Basque political prisoner Iñigo Makazaga and Kevin Nevers were handed empty envelopes, with the words ‘racial paper, needs to be returned to sender or destroyed under 10-day rule’.

When Larkin Publications and the prisoners’ legal advisers wrote to protest, the grounds suddenly changed to some equally spurious nonsense about the paper infringing the prison’s ‘Incentive and Earned Privileges Scheme’ (IEPS), as it came from the publishers rather than being purchased through the prison canteen. This did not explain why the papers were marked ‘racial paper and not for issue’ and doesn’t make sense in any case, as the IEPS refers to purchases made by prisoners and we send FRFI free of charge as an act of solidarity.

We protested about this censorship by writing letters to the prison and Prison Service, publicising it in the prison newspaper Inside Time, on Indymedia, through activist email lists and elsewhere. We urged others to email, write and fax the prison complaining. And, through Iñigo Makazaga’s legal representative, Daniel Guedalla of Birnberg Peirce solicitors, we threatened to begin a High Court action to judicially review the prison’s decision.

We then learnt that FRFI was also being stopped in Frankland and Full Sutton and widened the campaign to encompass those prisons, encouraging our supporters to protest to the Directorate of High Security Prisons.

On 29 June the Head of Office Administration at Belmarsh wrote to Birnberg Peirce solicitors and to Larkin Publications apologising for the implication that FRFI was a racist paper, confirming that the IEP scheme was irrelevant to us, assuring us that Iñigo would not be stopped from getting FRFI in future, and informing us that we could send an additional copy to the prison library! A week later the High Security Briefing and Casework Unit confirmed that all three prisons would allow prisoners to receive the paper without further hindrance.

We will continue to oppose all attempts to censor our newspaper or prevent its distribution in prisons.

FRFI 186 August / September 2005


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