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Steve Coogan joins Index on Censorship as patron

By Index on Censorship / 13 June, 2014

Index on Censorship, an international organisation that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression, is delighted to announce that comedian, writer and actor Steve Coogan is joining as a patron of the organisation. Index was founded in 1972 to publish the untold stories of dissidents behind the Iron Curtain. Today, the organisation fights for free speech around the world, challenging censorship whenever and wherever it occurs.

Other patrons include Nobel Prize winning author Nadine Gordimer, actor Michael Palin, and playwright Sir Tom Stoppard.

Index uses a unique combination of journalism, campaigning and advocacy to defend freedom of expression for those facing censorship and repression, including journalists, writers, social media users, bloggers, artists, politicians, scientists, academics, activists and citizens. Index believes that free expression is the foundation of a free society and endorses Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”.

“We are delighted that Steve has agreed to be a patron of Index,” said newly appointed CEO Jodie Ginsberg, who joined Index at the end of May. “Comedians, writers and performers often bear the brunt of attempts to stifle free expression – in both authoritarian regimes and in democracies.”

Coogan said: “Creative and artistic freedom of expression is something to be cherished where it exists and fought for where it doesn’t. This is what Index on Censorship does. I am pleased to lend my support and patronage to such an important cause.”

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20 Responses to Steve Coogan joins Index on Censorship as patron

  1. Jack B Reply

    23 June at 17:10

    This is a risible decision by Index. Coogan is an enemy of free speech. It seems we now need to look elsewhere for an organisation that will decent free speech with integrity. Coogan’s interest is privacy for celebs.

    It’s sad to see so many cancelling their memberships of Index. I’ll be doing the same.

  2. Gabby Stafford Reply

    20 June at 15:16

    Can Index not see that Coogan’s appointment overshadows and undermines any arguments you may make opposing the Royal Charter?!!!

    When people hear him speak, erroneously and ineptly but with the emotion of the “victims” on his side, they will now also hear “Coogan represents the position of Index on press regulation”. Who will present the rational long term truth argument on this. People with believe that Index is FOR press regulation. This enables the self aggrandising Evan Harris to cite Coogan’s position within Index to bolster his position to censor “the unworthy” press.

    We are simply not hearing the arguments properly. That the tacit forcing of news papers to sign up or pay the price in punitive damages, i.e. pay the costs of losing claims agains your paper, something that would cause most papers to fold in short order, is indirect censorship and effectively compulsory. That doesn’t even start to address other problems such as what Maria Miller’s adviser did by “flagging up” leveson to a reporter investigation Miller’s expenses. Imagine Alistair Campbell in government with a large majority wanting to silence papers. It would not be difficult.

    Please rethink your position Index, Coogan has so much more to gain by associating himself with you: gravitas and intellectual rigour for a start something he does not presently possess. But Index has so much more to lose by identifying with attention seeking special interest groups such as those he represents.

  3. Gabby Stafford Reply

    19 June at 11:54

    Again I can’t fathom why Index is associating itself with someone who was so clearly associated with such an illiberal and shady group as Hacked off. Why get Max Mosely in?!!!! I can only imagine that Coogan is giving a lot of money to Index. Please don’t end up like Amnesty and other organisations compromised by those within it whose beliefs are antithetical to the values they claim to promote. Coogan should go.

  4. john murray Reply

    16 June at 09:17

    I hadn’t heard of Index on Censorship until I read Guido’s column this morning. That it’s purpose is against Censorship,only to then invites Steve Coogan to be patron (hypocrisy and brass-neck aside, means I can continue to ignore what will inevitably be a laughing stock.

  5. Anthony Miller Reply

    15 June at 18:04

    “It’s perfectly possible to be a strong friend of free speech and support Leveson’s proposals”

    On what planet?

    This is a massive conflict of interest. Coogan believes his private life should not be discussed in public while satirising the private lives of others through his creations.

  6. Elaine Decoulos Reply

    15 June at 15:10

    What does Index on Censorship have to say about the Sun sending free copies out to 22 million addresses and coercing all political leaders to pose with a copy? Do they call this free speech, especially when several of News UK former employees are still on trial? This is highly manipulative and borders on contempt of court. It has nothing to do with free speech, but with a sinister attempt to influence the public in their favour. And they claim England as their own!

    I don’t have a problem with Steve Coogan joining as a Patron. It’s a clever move by him, but if Index on Censorship wants to continue to be a beacon on free speech issues they have to adequately confront the beast that is the UK tabloid press.

    • Gabby Stafford Reply

      24 June at 01:07

      The things you cite are absolutely not things index should be concerned with. There is no category of “bordering on contempt of court” it either is or is not. The courts are very well capable of identifying when it is and have done often. The thing about freedom of speech is it is not only for those whose opinions you agree with. the sun can give out as many free copies as it likes. People are not stupid despite what many who judge the worthiness of certain papers think. I doubt very much that politicians are presently coerced into posing with the sun. More like inept advisers think it will benefit the politicians but coerced, no.

  7. Brendan Wignall Reply

    14 June at 14:30

    Hi. I was surprised to see so few comments about this. However, having submitted a comment and having it marked “pending moderation” and then disappear I presume Index on Censorship is only prepared for limited criticism to be allowed – rather like the states that you rightly criticise. “Hypocrites” would seem to be a reasonable description.

  8. Brendan Wignall Reply

    13 June at 20:11

    And in other news, the Chief Executive of the NSPCC defends the appointment of Gary Glitter as a patron: “The fact that Gary Glitter has joined the NSPCC has worried some people. While we understand that Gary is a convicted paedophile we remain committed to protecting children . . . ” Pathetic, that celebrity endorsement is more important to Index on Censorship than offering a consistent and coherent defence of free speech.

  9. Hoover Reply

    13 June at 18:51

    Eh? How does that work, then? A guy who campaigns against free speech gets made a patron of an organisation that campaigns for free speech…

    Do you think you might be a tad confused?

  10. Carlo Reply

    13 June at 17:58

    Whilst free speech by very definition must be a broad church, I’m really struggling with this appointment. My subscription is up next month, and it pains me to say that I don’t think I can, in all good conscience, renew as long as this campaigner remains as a patron.

    I’m sure his patronage will bring in more cash than my paltry annual sum, so in terms of pure economics it’s a winner.

    I think the moral argument however, is on my side. Disappointing.

  11. Carl Gardner Reply

    13 June at 15:35

    Jodie,

    Although you oppose the Royal Charter (I myself would be happier with a democratically and openly scrutinised statutory underpinning for Leveson, debated and decided by Parliament; but the press objected to that) it’s good that you, unlike some of your supporters, are not labelling people like Steve Coogan “censors” or “opponents of free speech”. That’s silly hyperbole. It’s perfectly possible to be a strong friend of free speech and support Leveson’s proposals; and indeed to oppose them while not really caring all that much about free speech, an attitude I think I see quite often.

    One of the reasons this debate has become falsely polarised is that so few people, even at Index apparently, understand what the Charter system actually is. You say, for instance

    Politicians should never be involved at any level in press regulation

    and I agree. That’s why the Royal Charter requires politicians not to be involved in a self-regulator. If I remember the details correctly, a serving MP or political Lord will be allowed to be involved in IPSO; but this would actually prevent it being “recognised” under the Royal Charter. The critics of political involvement need to support the Charter, not IPSO.

    You also say

    We remain opposed to any introduction of exemplary damages that may force newspapers who do not join a recognised regulator to pay massive court costs. And we are deeply concerned about the potential wide scope of the Charter in regulating and punishing a far wider variety of organisations and individuals who publish news.

    But exemplary damages already available in libel law. Leveson didn’t “introduce” them. Yes, they’ve now been extended to privacy cases too; that’s a fair point. But they’re only ever likely to come into question in a very small number of cases (as they are now).

    Much more importantly, you have it back to front on costs, which are much more relevant to publishers than the vanishingly small risk of exemplary damages. It is the current system, and the proposed future under IPSO, that leave all publishers at risk of court costs in any and every libel or privacy case. It’s only the Royal Charter system and the legislation underpinning it that offers publishers protection against court costs in both sorts of case, in effect forcing the litigious to go to the self-regulator instead. It’s astonishing how few people seem to have noticed this.

    As for the “wider variety of organisations and individuals who publish news”, I’m a blogger, I have faced threats and had take-down requests from people unhappy with what I’ve written, and I’d very much like to be able to tell those people where to get off, rather than worry about the litigation and costs I risk by not giving in to their demands. A Charter-compliant regulator would offer this to me (the disgruntled would have to pay their own and my costs anyway if they chose to sue – even if they won – rather than going through the self-regulator).

    The Royal Charter is the best free-speech protection small-scale bloggers have ever been offered in the UK. It’s bonkers that misguided fears about it resulted in amendments that are hard to understand, and actually take some bloggers out of the scope of what would be very valuable protection. I don’t think IPSO offers bloggers anything at all.

    I actually think support for Leveson shows stronger support for free speech than opposition to him. But of course I realise most of his opponents are just as genuine in their support for free speech as I am. I wish more of them were prepared to accept the same of his supporters, like Steve Coogan.

    • Robert Reply

      16 June at 13:45

      Carl,

      misguided fears about it resulted in amendments that are hard to understand, and actually take some bloggers out of the scope of what would be very valuable protection.

      My understanding is that bloggers or anyone who is not defined as a ‘relevant publisher’ could still join the regulator and take advantage of the protections it would offer.

      The issue is not about bloggers, but with publishers who are deemed ‘relevant publishers’ by the Crime & Courts Act. They risk huge ‘exemplary costs’ if they remain outside the regulator, and might have to pay costs even if they successfully defend a libel action or other kind of claim. This is open to abuse by vexatious litigants.

      So there are too kinds of peril:

      1) for bolshy outlets like ‘Private Eye’,’The Spectator’ or ‘Spiked’ who are determined to stay outside the regulator, the new regime presents a persistent threat of a financially ruinous legal challenge. This must have a chilling effect. And it could result in the permenant censorship (i.e. bankruptcy and closure) of one of those magazines. This could happen even if those magazines have published entirely responsibly within the law.

      2) For most outlets, the threat of a financially ruinous case is too terrible to contemplate. There is therefore no real choice in their decision to join the regulator. They simply cannot afford not to. This means that its not a ‘voluntary’ process but a ‘coercive’ one, and that’s a worry.

  12. Sean Gallagher Reply

    13 June at 13:43

    Index on Leveson

    The fact that Steve Coogan has joined Index as a patron has worried some people. They point to the fact that the comedian, like another of our patrons Sir Tom Stoppard, as well as other well-known writers such as Salman Rushdie and JK Rowling, is a supporter of campaign group ‘Hacked Off,’ which backs the Royal Charter on press regulation.

    Index on Censorship has always argued vehemently against the Royal Charter (link) and its introduction of political involvement into press regulation. We continue to do so. Politicians should never be involved at any level in press regulation, and we object to those who say that the Charter is not a political tool. We remain opposed to any introduction of exemplary damages that may force newspapers who do not join a recognised regulator to pay massive court costs. And we are deeply concerned about the potential wide scope of the Charter in regulating and punishing a far wider variety of organisations and individuals who publish news.

    We will continue to speak out vociferously against the Royal Charter, just as we have been a leading voice against recent global constraints on free expression, such as the ‘Right to be Forgotten’. And our priority will remain working with and speaking on behalf of people around the world whose right to express themselves freely is under constant threat.

    — Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship

    • Mark Wallace Reply

      13 June at 15:24

      “The fact that Steve Coogan has joined Index as a patron has worried some people.”

      Well spotted.

      “They point to the fact that the comedian, like another of our patrons Sir Tom Stoppard, as well as other well-known writers such as Salman Rushdie and JK Rowling, is a supporter of campaign group ‘Hacked Off,’ which backs the Royal Charter on press regulation.”

      Sir Tom’s wrong about it, too. As for Salman Rushdie and JK Rowling, what have they got to do with this? Other famous people backing Hacked Off doesn’t make it any more acceptable, it just means there’s a list of celebrities who are wrongly attacking press freedom.

      “Index on Censorship has always argued vehemently against the Royal Charter (link) and its introduction of political involvement into press regulation. We continue to do so.”

      Except when giving one of the Charter’s main advocates a veil of free speech respectability to hide behind. Can you not see how only Coogan is stronger from this transaction?

      “Politicians should never be involved at any level in press regulation, and we object to those who say that the Charter is not a political tool.”

      Steve Coogan says that the Charter is not a political tool, yet Index now endorses him. Spotting a problem yet?

      “We remain opposed to any introduction of exemplary damages that may force newspapers who do not join a recognised regulator to pay massive court costs. And we are deeply concerned about the potential wide scope of the Charter in regulating and punishing a far wider variety of organisations and individuals who publish news. We will continue to speak out vociferously against the Royal Charter, just as we have been a leading voice against recent global constraints on free expression, such as the ‘Right to be Forgotten’.”

      Well, except for when your Patron is speaking, in which case he presumably will be making the direct opposite case.

      “And our priority will remain working with and speaking on behalf of people around the world whose right to express themselves freely is under constant threat.”

      You know as well as anyone that the regimes which put that expression under threat now reject criticism on the basis that they are only doing the same thing as the UK. Hacked Off and Steve Coogan have dealt a blow not only to freedom here but to freedom around the world – we should be protesting against him, not welcoming him aboard.

  13. Ivor Koke-Abit Reply

    13 June at 12:42

    Coogan is one of the chief censors here in the UK, as a founding member of Hacked Off.

    He should be ditched immediately – hypocrite that he is.

  14. Mark Wallace Reply

    13 June at 10:40

    Utter lunacy – why would a free speech organisation go anywhere near this enthusiastic censor? Coogan is a mainstay of the campaign to put government in charge of the press in the UK, loudly cheering on the end of a three century heritage of freedom. Index shouldn’t touch him with a barge pole – signing him up as a Patron suggests you have either lost your minds or your principles, or both.

    I’ve given money to Index on Censorship in the past – you won’t be getting a penny more from me. You’ve let down everything you were founded to protect.

  15. Gabby Stafford Reply

    13 June at 10:36

    Can you confirm that Mr Coogan has cut all ties with the illiberal and free speech suppressing hacked off?

    • Mark Wallace Reply

      13 June at 11:11

      He hasn’t, Gabby – absurdly, Jodie Ginsberg, the CEO, is just tweeting that they “agree to disagree” about it, as though free speech was negotiable. Sad to see the self-destruction of a once great organisation.

      • Gabby Stafford Reply

        19 June at 11:56

        How said that Ian Hislop and Francis Wheen have left index today and Francis Wheen, people who actually DO believe in free speech not just the privacy of celebrities! Coogan no doubt and his pals will be delighted.

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