Canada's largest retail bookseller says it accidentally blocked the distribution of a small U.S. current affairs magazine from its 260 stores and plans to start selling the magazine's June-July issue as soon as possible.
Joel Silver, senior vice-president of print procurement for Toronto-based Indigo Books and Music, telephoned Tom Flynn, the editor of Free Inquiry, with the news late yesterday afternoon.
According to Mr. Flynn, the Indigo executive "gave me a sort of a stammering apology, said that the June-July issue was blocked by accident, and that they have contacted [Ajax, Ont.-based Disticor Magazine Distribution Services]to send it through again."
Earlier in the week, Mr. Flynn sent a letter to Indigo founder and CEO Heather Reisman saying he had learned from Disticor that Ms. Reisman's company had declined to stock the June-July Free Inquiry without giving a reason, and that future issues would be "inspected in advance on an issue-by-issue basis to determine [their]suitability" for Indigo and its Chapters, Coles and SmithBooks subsidiaries.
Calls by The Globe and Mail to four Indigo executives, including Mr. Silver, were not returned yesterday.
Mr. Flynn said from his office in Amherst, N.Y., that the June-July Free Inquiry will be available at Indigo for only about two weeks because the August-September edition already has been printed.
Indigo's Mr. Silver told him the issue would be sold "as normal." The retailer usually takes between 300 and 500 copies of each issue.
Mr. Flynn speculated that Indigo's apparent ban may have been prompted by a Free Inquiry editorial by the Princeton bioethicist and animal-rights activist Peter Singer titled "The Freedom to Ridicule Religion -- and Deny the Holocaust."
Mr. Flynn also suggested the apparent censorship may have been "in retaliation" for Free Inquiry's reproduction, in its April-May issue, of four of the 12 hotly contested cartoons that a Danish newspaper published last year satirizing the Prophet Mohammed. Their appearance in Free Inquiry went undetected by Indigo until late May when the retailer unleashed a storm of controversy by banning the June issue of another U.S. publication, Harper's, which had published all 12 Danish cartoons.
A few months earlier, Indigo had pulled copies of Western Standard magazine after the Calgary-based publication also reproduced some of the cartoons.
Mr. Singer's editorial touches on the cartoons, saying that "in hindsight, it would have been wiser" for the Danes not to have published them given the bloody riots and protests that followed.
"The benefits were not worth the costs." At the same time, "we should forcefully defend the right of newspaper editors to publish such cartoons, if they choose to do so."
Mr. Singer then argues that if the West truly believes in freedom of expression, the Austrian courts shouldn't have convicted and imprisoned British historian David Irving for his Holocaust-denying views, no matter how absurd or false.