Media Coverage of Afghan Historical Documents Project

In late August 2015, news broke (via Agence France-Presse/Yahoo News) about the Taliban Sources Project (TSP), a Thesigers project involving digitisation and translation of historical Taliban documents and manuscripts in Afghanistan. At issue was donation of the TSP digital archive to the British Library, and decisions relating to the donation made by offices at the British Library.

Press outlets reporting on the issue included: in the US, the New York Times and Foreign Policy magazine; in the UK, the BBC, BBC World Service's Newshour, and the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers; and in the Middle East, Al Jazeera and BBC Arabic, as well as local language press outlets in Afghanistan. The issue was subsequently covered in greater depth in Library Journal.

Coverage included interviews with TSP team members, and Thesigers Director and CEO Michael A. Innes was quoted in several outlets. Reader response via social media included notable expert commentary on Twitter and a more extended legal discussion on a blog of the New York University's School of Law.

Thesigers is currently in the final stages of preparing the TSP files for accession to major libraries in the United States and Europe.

Noteworthy items are listed below, with links to the original sources.

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Key resources

Original story - BBC Rejects Taliban Trove Fearing Terror Laws (AFP/Yahoo News).

URL: https://news.yahoo.com/british-library-rejects-taliban-trove-fearing-terror-laws-105317279.html

In-depth report - British Library Declines Taliban Archive, New Hosts Step Up (Library Journal)

URL: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2015/09/digital-content/british-library-declines-taliban-archive-new-hosts-step-up/

Radio interview - Alex Strick van Linscshoten (BBC Newshour Radio)

URL: https://soundcloud.com/strickarchive/bbc-newshour-interview-about-the-taliban-sources-project

Detailed round-up of media coverage (Alex Strick van Linschoten)

URL: http://www.alexstrick.com/blog/2015/8/afp-covers-the-taliban-sources-project

British Library Press Release - British Library statement regarding the Taliban Sources Project

URL: http://www.bl.uk/press-releases/2015/august/british-library-statement-on-taliban-sources-project

 

Press coverage

Terror law prompts British Library to reject unique Taliban archive (The Guardian)

URL: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/28/terror-law-prompts-british-library-to-reject-unique-taliban-archive

British Library declines Taliban archive over terror law fears (BBC)

URL: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34088661

Antiterrorism Laws Prompt British Library to Distance Itself From Taliban Project (New York Times)

URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/29/world/europe/antiterrorism-laws-prompt-british-library-to-distance-itself-from-taliban-project.html

British Library rejects Taliban archive over terror law (Al Jazeera)

URL: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/08/british-library-rejects-taliban-archive-terror-law-150829041348280.html

British Library turns down Taliban archive because of UK terror laws. (The Telegraph)

URL: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/11832391/British-Library-turns-down-Taliban-archive-because-of-UK-terror-laws.html

South Asia Channel Press Round-up (Foreign Policy)

URL: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/08/31/susan-rice-visits-pakistan-urges-crackdown-on-militant-groups-taliban-admit-covering-up-mullah-omars-death-sc-overturns-ban-on-jain-ritual/

 

Expert debate

1. Self-Censorship in Action: The British Library Rejects Taliban Archive

URL: https://www.justsecurity.org/26027/self-censorship-action-british-library-rejects-taliban-archive/

2.  The British Library Did Not Need to Self-Censor

URL:  https://www.justsecurity.org/26271/british-museum-censor/

3. The British Library and the Taliban Sources Project: A Short Reply to Professor Walker

URL: https://www.justsecurity.org/26316/short-reply-professor-walker/

4.  A Short (Yet Still Forlorn) Reply in the Taliban Sources Project Debate

URL: https://www.justsecurity.org/26358/short-yet-forlorn-reply-taliban-sources-project-debate/

 

Further mentions

The British Library Rejects a Collection... For the Wrong Reason (Rare Book Club)

URL: http://www.rarebookhub.com/articles/1904

Closing Plenary on Activist Stewardship: The Imperative of Risk in Collecting Cultural Heritage

URL: https://www.cni.org/events/membership-meetings/past-meetings/spring-2016/plenary-sessions-s16

Capacious Tapes: Cassettes as Intangible Cultural Heritage

URL: http://artpapers.org/feature_articles/2016_0304-Tapes.html

 

Expert comment

Notable experts offered short commentary via social media. These included: Thomas Hegghammer (Norwegian Defence Research Institute), Graeme Smith (then of the International Crisis Group, now United Nations), Aaron Y. Zelin (Washington Institute and King's College, London),  Chris Woods (journalist and author), Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (Middle East Forum). For a detailed round up of commentary, including links to original sources, see Alex Strick van Linschoten's survey of media coverage, linked above.