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Author Salman Rushdie hardly alone in raising government concerns

January 17, 2012 |  1:02 pm

Author Salman Rushdie may be as famous for facing death threats -- a fatwa was issued against him in the late 1980s by then-Supreme Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- as he is for his writing. Security concerns most recently have Indian officials warning that Rushdie shouldn’t appear at a literary festival that begins Friday in the city of Jaipur, as Times staff writer Mark Magnier reports.

Many artists and writers have raised concerns and encountered government restrictions throughout history. Here is a sampling:

Ai Weiwei

An artist and Internet activist with a history of getting into trouble with Chinese authorities, Ai has been outspoken in support of free speech and human rights. He spent 81 days in jail in the spring before being released on bail but still faces charges related to tax evasion — charges supporters regard as an attempt by the government to silence him.


The comedian was one of the political prisoners recently freed in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. He had been arrested four years ago after publicly criticizing the government response to a tornado that killed more than 140,000 people. The country recently announced it would release 651 prisoners, including some pro-democracy leaders who had languished in prison since 1988.

Caetano Veloso

The legendary Brazilian musician helped pioneer the Tropicalismo movement, which mixed Brazilian rhythms with 1960s rock 'n' roll. Veloso was imprisoned for two months in the late 1960s under a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985 that took over in a U.S.-backed coup. The dictatorship is suspected of killing or causing the disappearance of more than 450 people, and torturing or exiling thousands more.

Vaclav Havel

The former dissident playwright led Czechoslovakia's 1989 "Velvet Revolution" against communism and then served as his country's president. Havel was harassed and repeatedly imprisoned after the Soviets invaded in 1968. His plays were subsequently banned in his home country, a particularly grim fate for a playwright whose solidarity with his audience was a primary source of inspiration. He died late last year.

Vann Nath

The Cambodian painter was one of only seven prisoners to survive Tuol Sleng prison, a converted high school that nearby factory workers called "the place where people go in and never come out." At least 14,000 Cambodian men, women and children reportedly were brought to the prison, where they were interrogated, tortured and executed from 1975 to 1979. He died last fall.

Ring Lardner Jr.

During the McCarthy era in the U.S., the Academy Award-winning screenwriter was imprisoned for refusing to answer questions before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He died in 2000, the last survivor of the so-called Hollywood 10, a group of blacklisted writers, directors and producers who went to prison for refusing to testify about their political beliefs.

The Times compiled this list from our archives. Who would you like to add to the list? Please place your suggestions and links in the comments.


In fog of Syria, observers can't tell what they are seeing

Hope fades of finding more survivors on cruise ship off Italy

Tensions rise between Iran, Arab states over possible oil embargo

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Myanmar comedian Zarganar, left, talks with journalists at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok. Credit: Friedrich Naumann Foundation