Norway’s gift to “Bibliotheca Alexandrina”:
Beacon for Freedom of Expression Database
On Monday, 19 May 2003 the Norwegian Minister of Culture and Church Affairs, Valgerd Svarstad Haugland, presented the Beacon for Freedom of Expression database and website to the new library in Alexandria. The database has been financed by the Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs and developed by the former Norwegian Forum for Freedom of Expression in extensive, global cooperation with international institutions, government bodies, human rights organizations, national libraries and research institutions.
The name “Beacon for Freedom of Expression” refers to the giant lighthouse that stood in Alexandria in historical times. The main purpose of the database is to provide a comprehensive, balanced view of the phenomenon of censorship, to see the situation of freedom of expression today in a broader historical perspective, and to shed light on the fact that censorship occurs in very different societies and transcends all cultural borders.
The database is a pioneering project in terms of its structure and content. It is divided into two parts. The first contains a global, bibliographical reference catalogue of books and newspapers censored by government authorities past and present on political, religious or moral grounds. The second part comprises literature on censorship and freedom of expression. The database is updated continuously and currently contains more than 55,000 bibliographical references. The Beacon for Freedom of Expression therefore represents a steadily growing electronic monument to all the writers, books and newspapers that have been censored throughout history.
The follow-up of the database has been ensured until the end of 2005 by an International Steering Committee comprising the International Freedom of Expression eXchange Clearing House (IFEX), the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and the Norwegian Steering Committee. The Norwegian Steering Committee consists of the Norwegian Library Association, the Institute for Human Rights at the University of Oslo and the Faculty of Journalism, Library and Information Science at Oslo University College. The National Library of Norway acts as technical adviser. The follow-up activities will be financed by the Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs until the end of 2005.
The database can be accessed at Beacon for Freedom of Expression