PROTECT FREEDOM OF THE PRESS The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control ruled in September that journal publishers could not edit submissions from authors living in countries facing U.S. trade embargoes, because editing added value to the manuscript and was therefore prohibited under the International Emergency Economic Power's Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act.
As reported in the article “Journals' Freedom to Publish Affirmed” (Journal of the American Medical Association, April 28), the World Association of Medical Editors and other scientific groups lobbied in protest, and in April, the government loosened up its policy, saying journal publishers could edit those articles. But OFAC also said that journals could not publish articles that were co-written by U.S. scholars and those living in sanctioned countries.
We asked Robert H. Fletcher, MD, chair, WAME's editorial policy committee, about the relevance of the rulings to CME. In an e-mail response, expressing his own opinion, not that of the WAME, he stated: “It seems to me CME is a bit removed from the direct effects of this ruling, but it does depend — as we all do — on the integrity of science, which has been threatened by our government in this case.
“The new ruling is a great improvement. It was difficult to imagine a great country, an international symbol of an open society, in which editing and publishing articles from scientists in other countries, without regard to those country's politics, is not allowed.
“But I have remaining concerns with the ruling. For one thing, the agency is acting as if editorial freedom is a privilege, to be granted or removed by government. Freedom of the press, except in specific, emergency situations where it is overtly dangerous to society, is a founding principle of this country.
“The remaining across-the-board proscription on collaborating with scientists from the banned countries is also very troubling. Research collaboration is not as directly the business of journal editors, but I should think the academic and research communities would be taking that on. There may be instances in which collaboration or publication could harm this country (for example, by disseminating bioterrorism information not already generally available) but these specific situations should be the object of attention, not all collaborations and publications.”
For more information, visit www.wame.org and check out the policy statement “Geopolitical Intrusion on Editorial Decisions.”
Editor's note: We thank journalist John Otrompke for bringing this story to our attention.