Research libraries are committed to such foundational values of the library profession as diversity, inclusion, equity, access to information, free expression, privacy, and social justice.
Upholding these core values, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is deeply concerned about the selection of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as the site of the 2018 International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) World Library and Information Congress (WLIC).
ARL’s concern with Malaysia as a WLIC site is twofold. First is the danger that attendance would pose to individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, or intersex (LGBTQI). Malaysian law prescribes extensive, punitive actions for sexual activity by LGBTQI people, including lashing and up to 20 years imprisonment. Moreover, these penalties may be compounded in certain jurisdictions that have more fundamentalist religious laws in place. In addition, the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, is a vocal opponent of civil rights for LGBTQI individuals. The Association fears the safety of WLIC participants who identify as LGBTQI may be compromised due to the laws and political climate in Malaysia.
Second, the Malaysian government endorses and engages in censorship and does not honor confidentiality. Both freedom of expression and respect of confidentiality will be necessary to productive discussions at the upcoming WLIC. The potential dampening effect of censorship and lack of confidentiality should concern all WLIC 2018 participants.