Entertainment & Arts

Banned NZ book goes back on sale

Into the River Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Into the River won the top prize at the 2013 New Zealand Post-Children's Book Awards

Censors in New Zealand have lifted the ban on the award-winning teen novel Into the River, imposed last month.

Ted Dawe's coming-of-age tale was removed from circulation after lobby group Family First complained about its sex and drug content.

But censors said that, after review, it believed it contained "a number of important issues and problems that many young teenagers will have to confront".

It was New Zealand's first such ban since legislation introduced in 1993.

Revised entertainment classification came into force following the passing of the Film and Publications and Video Act 1993, designed to help regulators base decisions on social and medical evidence rather than previous case law and tribunal decisions.

The book, about a Maori boy who faces bullying and racism, won the top prize at the 2013 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.

It contains explicit descriptions of sex and drug use, as well as an offensive term for female genitalia.

Dawe said he was "thrilled" by the decision from the Film and Literature Board of Review.

"It has restored my faith in New Zealand's legal system," he said.

Image caption Ted Dawe had called the ban 'heavy-handed and draconian'

The book's publisher, Penguin Random House, said it was "a victory for freedom of expression and the right of authors and publishers to deal with the challenging social issues young people face today in high-quality works of literature".

Under the ban, selling the book - and having it in schools and libraries - could have led to a fine of up to NZ$3,000 (£1,300) for individuals and NZ$10,000 (£4,400) for companies.

It led to outrage not just from Dawe, who described the ban as "heavy-handed and draconian", but from many other authors too.

"I don't know whether I'm that happy living in a country which does those sorts of things to books and to writers," said Dawe at the time.

He said his book reflected the reality of teenage life, and that to ban it while books with a high-sex content, such as Fifty Shades of Grey, were given the all-clear was "almost sinister".

The Film and Literature Board of Review issued the interim ban after Family First said it had received more than 400 letters about Into the Woods from concerned parents.

The group wanted the novel to be given a restriction rating of R18. The ban was to allow the review board time to consider the complaint.

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