Index on Censorship http://www.indexoncensorship.org the voice of free expression Mon, 22 Sep 2014 16:08:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=156 the voice of free expression Index on Censorship no the voice of free expression Index on Censorship http://www.indexoncensorship.org/wp-content/uploads/powerpress/Free_Speech_Bites_Logo.jpg http://www.indexoncensorship.org Myth-busting: European Commission misrepresents right to be forgotten objections http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/myth-busting-european-commission-misrepresents-right-to-be-forgotten-objections/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/myth-busting-european-commission-misrepresents-right-to-be-forgotten-objections/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 14:32:31 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=60299 The European Commission (EC) on Thursday released a "mythbuster" on the controversial Court of Justice of the European Union ruling on the "right to be forgotten".

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The European Commission (EC) on Thursday released a “mythbuster” on the controversial Court of Justice of the European Union ruling on the “right to be forgotten”. The document tackles six perceived myths surrounding the decision by the court in May to force all search engines to delink material at the request of internet users — that is, to allow individuals to ask the likes of Google and Yahoo to remove certain links from search results of their names. Many — including Index on Censorship — are worried about the implications of the right to be forgotten on free expression and internet freedom, which is what the EC are trying to address with this document. But after going through the points raised, it is clear they need some of their own mythbusting.

myths

1) Groups like Index on Censorship have not suggested “the judgement does nothing for citizens”. We believe personal privacy on the internet does need greater safeguards. But this poor ruling is a blunt, unaccountable instrument to tackle what could be legitimate grievances about content posted online. As Index stated in May, “the court’s ruling fails to offer sufficient checks and balances to ensure that a desire to alter search requests so that they reflect a more ‘accurate’ profile does not simply become a mechanism for censorship and whitewashing of history.” So while the judgement does indeed do something for some citizens, the fact that it leaves the decisions in the hands of search engines – with no clear or standardised guidance about what content to remove – means this measure fails to protect all citizens.

2) The problem is not that content will be deleted, but that content — none of it deemed so unlawful or inaccurate that it should be taken down altogether — will be much harder, and in come cases, almost impossible to find. As the OSCE Representative on Media Freedom has said: “If excessive burdens and restrictions are imposed on intermediaries and content providers the risk of soft or self-censorship immediately appears. Undue restrictions on media and journalistic activities are unacceptable regardless of distribution platforms and technologies.”

3) The EC claims the right to be forgotten “will always need to be balanced against *other* fundamental rights” — despite the fact that as late as 2013, the EU advocate general found that there was no right to be forgotten. The mythbuster document also states that search engines must make decisions on a “case-by-case basis”, and that the judgement does not give an “all clear” to remove search results. The ruling, however, is simply inadequate in addressing these points. Search engines have not been given any guidelines on delinking, and are making the rules up as they go along. Search engines, currently unaccountable to the wider public, are given the power to decide whether something is in the public interest. Not to mention the fact that the EC is also suggesting that sites, including national news outlets, should not be told when one of their articles or pages have been delinked. The ruling pits privacy against free expression, and the former is trumping the latter.

4) By declaring that the right to be forgotten does not allow governments to decide what can and cannot be online, the mythbuster implies that governments are the only ones who engage in censorship. This is not the case — individuals, companies (including internet companies), civil society and more can all act as censors. And while the EC claims that search engines will work under national data protection authorities, these groups have yet to provide guidelines to Google and others. The mythbuster itself states that a group of independent European data protection agencies will “soon provide a comprehensive set of guidelines” — the operative word being “soon”. This group — known as the Article 29 Working Party — is the one suggesting you should not be informed when your page has been delinked. And while it may be true that “national courts have the final say” when someone appeals a decision by a search engine to *decline* a right to be forgotten request, this is not necessarily the case the other way around. How can you appeal something you don’t know has taken place? And what would be the mechanism for you to appeal?

As of 1 Sept, Google alone has received 120,000 requests that affect 457,000 internet addresses and may remove the information without guidance, at their own discretion and with very little accountability. To argue that this situation doesn’t allow for at least some possibility of censorship, seems like a naive position to take.

5) All decisions about internet governance will to an extent have an impact on how the internet works, so it is important that we get those decisions right. In its current form, the right to be forgotten is not up to the job of protecting internet freedom, free expression and access to information.

6) It may not render data protection reform redundant, but we certainly hope the reform takes into account concerns raised by free expression groups on the implementation of, and guidelines surrounding, the right to be forgotten ruling.

This article was posted on 22 Sept 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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EU Parliament calls on Azerbaijan to reform human rights http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/eu-parliament-calls-azerbaijan-reform-human-rights/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/eu-parliament-calls-azerbaijan-reform-human-rights/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 14:29:53 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=60242 The European Parliament has called on Azerbaijan to release several prominent political prisoners and proceed with reforming the country’s human rights policies. The motion calls for the immediate release of prisoners Leyla and Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev and Hasan Huseynli. It also asks that the government cease its harassment of civil society organisations, […]

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(Image: Håkan Dahström)

(Image: Håkan Dahström)

The European Parliament has called on Azerbaijan to release several prominent political prisoners and proceed with reforming the country’s human rights policies.

The motion calls for the immediate release of prisoners Leyla and Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev and Hasan Huseynli. It also asks that the government cease its harassment of civil society organisations, opposition politicians and independent journalists.

Leyla and Arif were arrested at the end of July 2014 and are facing a series of charges which include treason and fraud. On 14 July 2014 Hasan was sentenced to six years in prison, Rasul and Intigam were arrested at the beginning of August 2014. There are currently 98 political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

EU support and cooperation with Azerbaijan, including ongoing negotiations for a Strategic Modernisation Partnership, must be conditional upon and include clauses relating to protection of human rights, states the text from the session.

 

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Julia Farrington: The Barbican, Exhibit B and “progress zero” http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/barbican-brett-bailey-exhibit-b-julia-farrington/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/barbican-brett-bailey-exhibit-b-julia-farrington/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 13:45:41 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=60303 Index on Censorship's associate arts producer explores the issues around the Barbican's presentation of Exhibit B, a work by Brett Bailey.

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Exhibit B (Photo: © Sofie Knijff / Barbican)

Exhibit B will take place at the Barbican Sept 23-27, 2014. (Photo: © Sofie Knijff / Barbican)

 

If artistic culture is to be truly dynamic, strong, representative and relevant, the programmes in our theatres, galleries and museums will necessarily be challenging. The work, presented by many different voices, will likely be divisive; and causing offence, whether unintended or deliberate, is unavoidable.

The role of the arts institution in this dynamic cultural life is to manage the space between the artist and the audience, to create a place in which different ideas about the world we live in can be expressed, challenged, exalted, ridiculed and celebrated.

Brett Bailey’s Exhibit B, programmed for four days at the Barbican beginning tomorrow, has certainly caused considerable offence; 22,500 people have signed a petition calling for the Barbican to withdraw this exhibition, declaring their intention to protest outside the venue during the run.

The work by the South African theatre maker was inspired by human zoos, popular in 18th and 19th centuries, where human beings of African heritage were put in cages on display alongside animals for the titillation of European audiences. It recreates 12 tableaux of atrocities featuring live actors, who the audience is asked to observe in silence. Brett Bailey’s idea behind Exhibit B is to immerse the visitor in visions of horror and inhumanity to “provoke audiences to reflect on the historical roots of today’s prejudices and policies”.

What interests me here is the role and mindset of the institution presenting this piece of work and whether it considered, if at all, the possibility of a hostile response. I requested an interview with the Barbican, but was told they would speak after the show, once I had seen the exhibition.

For Exhibit B to be anything other than another here-today-gone-tomorrow exhibition that takes the messages of the work to heart, the Barbican would have to be engaged in dialogue with black artists and audiences as part of an ongoing commitment to eradicate institutional racism from the arts.  Yet it is the boycott organised against this exhibition, with its petition, speeches, protests, marches, public meetings, pickets, on and offline debate that is ensuring that any dialogue is happening, albeit in reaction to the programming of Exhibit B, and from the outside. (In response to the boycott, Barbican has commissioned Nitro to organise a public debate: Discussions, Learning and Legacy at Theatre Royal Stratford East tonight – Monday 22nd at 6pm.)

By giving a major international platform to Exhibit B without significant contemporary context, engagement or dialogue, the Barbican is unwittingly shining a light on both its own failure and the failure of the wider arts and culture scene to challenge prejudice and policy in the arts in the United Kingdom.  Surely it cannot be possible for the Barbican to stand by a work that purports to confront “colonial atrocities committed in Africa, European notions of racial supremacy and the plight of immigrants today” and not see that it is holding up a mirror to itself.

Mark Sealy, artistic director at Autograph Black Photographers, who I spoke to last week about the boycott, was unequivocal: “Since 1980s it is progress zero. Our institutions have failed to bring about change – whether it is academia, the McPhearson Report or funding policies – [black] people feel absented from power, authoring and having a voice” And the reason?  “There are no consequences to this failure. These policies have not made an iota of difference. If they want their institutions to be truly diverse they would withdraw the money from institutions if they don’t deliver.”

Independent arts consultant Jenny Williams takes a pragmatic view by heading up the campaign JustCulture, featuring a 10-point manifesto for change, though she knows, also from years of experience, without investment and commitment from the establishment there is little hope that things will change. She has crunched the numbers: “The Arts Council funding of arts infrastructure is not fairly representing the 14% black and minority communities. 14% of ACE’s overall three-year investment of £2.4bn would equate to £336m – that’s £112m per year. The black and minority ethnic community contribute around £62m per year into the overall arts budget. Yet, the current yearly figure currently invested in black and minority ethnic-led work is £4.8m.”

In spite of this grossly unbalanced situation, the organisers of the boycott I have spoken to are talking about how they can turn this into a positive. As Sara Myers, author of the boycott told me, she sees the mass outpouring of frustration and outrage as a catalyst. “A door has opened and we want to take the opportunity to challenge stereotypes, rather than sit back and see them reinforced.” She was however shocked when she met the board and senior management of the Barbican – with one exception, all white.

In her five-star review of Exhibit B for The Guardian, Lyn Gardner says the show “reminds us that most history is hidden from view”. I would say history here is on display for all to see. I defend Brett Bailey’s right to present these horrendous atrocities from the past – anything else is censorship – and agree with Lemn Sissay that we should all be free to revisit this story “in every part of every generation”.

But the more potent issue here, is the perpetuation of institutionalised mono-cultural bias preventing the Barbican, and the vast majority of British arts institutions, from fostering and delivering a truly relevant cultural programme. This untenable form of censorship must be addressed and continued to be addressed long after Exhibit B has been and gone.

This article was posted on 22 September 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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Azerbaijan: Letter to BP http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/azerbaijan-letter-bp/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/azerbaijan-letter-bp/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 23:05:45 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=60227 Azerbaijanis are demanding that BP stop supporting repression in their country on the 20th anniversary of the Contract of the Century. A letter has been sent to BP CEO Bob Dudley to coincide with today’s 20 year anniversary. On 20 September 1994 BP signed a contract with then president Heydar Aliyev to extract Azerbaijani oil. This […]

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Rasul Jafarov, Arif Yunus and Leyla Yunus (Photos: Rasul Jafarov (© IRFS), Arif and Leyla Yunus (© HRHN))

Rasul Jafarov, Arif Yunus and Leyla Yunus (Photos: Rasul Jafarov (© IRFS), Arif and Leyla Yunus (© HRHN))

Azerbaijanis are demanding that BP stop supporting repression in their country on the 20th anniversary of the Contract of the Century.

A letter has been sent to BP CEO Bob Dudley to coincide with today’s 20 year anniversary. On 20 September 1994 BP signed a contract with then president Heydar Aliyev to extract Azerbaijani oil. This initiated the oil company’s two-decade relationship with Azerbaijan, providing money and power to Aliyev, which the letter argues, has hindered democracy in the country.

Mirvari Gahramanli, The Oil Workers Right Protection Organisation Union says: “BP is where the president got his power from. What is he without the money? Where is his wealth, where are his police, without BP’s money? The Aliyevs have grown rich from BP and now as a result they have much more power.”

The letter is asking BP to call on the Aliyev government to release all 98 political prisoners currently being detained, and to especially raise the cases of the most recent arrests; Leyla and Arif Yunus, Intigam Aliyev and Rasul Jafarov – who has managed to sign the letter from prison. It also asks that BP remove its sponsorship from the 2015 Baku European Olympic games.

Protesters gathered outside the London headquarters of BP on Wednesday, ahead of today’s anniversary; Azerbaijanis are unable to protest at BP’s offices in Baku as the current level of repression means that taking part in a demonstration could lead to a jail sentence.

Emma Hughes, Platform London says: “We took action this week because Azerbaijani’s are unable to. I am free to stand outside BP – in Azerbaijan such an action would mean arrest. BP are propping up the Aliyev regime. If they are serious about supporting democracy in Azerbaijan they must talk about the country’s 98 political prisoners and end their sponsorship of the 2015 Baku Olympics.”

This article was posted on XXXX Sept 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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Senegal: Frontline Freespeech Workshop, 2 Oct http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/senegal-frontline-freespeech-workshop/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/senegal-frontline-freespeech-workshop/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:04:02 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=60290 Index on Censorship in association with ARTICLE 19, Senegal, invite you to a workshop to launch Frontline Freespeech, a pilot project seeking to amplify the voice of individuals under pressure. This workshop will bring together grassroots activists alongside leading free expression campaigners to share their recent experiences of censorship, to record and map current censorship […]

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Index on Censorship in association with ARTICLE 19, Senegal, invite you to a workshop to launch Frontline Freespeech, a pilot project seeking to amplify the voice of individuals under pressure.

This workshop will bring together grassroots activists alongside leading free expression campaigners to share their recent experiences of censorship, to record and map current censorship challenges and to build impactful free speech networks in Senegal.

A wide audience are expected to attend the workshop: campaigners, community leaders, network co-ordinators, human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, artists, scholars and representatives of minority groups facing free expression challenges alongside key human rights organisations and independent media.

Thursday 2 October 2014
West African Research Center (WARC)
Street E x Leon Gontran Damas Fann
Residence, BP 5456 Dakar-Fann

To RSVP for this workshop please email Khadidiatou Diaw, Khadidiatou@article19.org, +221 33 869 03 22

Registration will close on Thursday 25 September 2014 | PDF

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Tunisia: Frontline Freespeech Workshop, 30 Sept http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/tunisia-frontline-freespeech-workshop-30-sept/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/tunisia-frontline-freespeech-workshop-30-sept/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 15:56:51 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=60287 Index on Censorship in association with Article 19, Tunisia, invite you to a workshop to launch Frontline Freespeech, a pilot project seeking to amplify the voice of individuals under pressure. This workshop will bring together grassroots activists alongside leading free expression campaigners to share their recent experiences of censorship, to record and map current censorship […]

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Index on Censorship in association with Article 19, Tunisia, invite you to a workshop to launch Frontline Freespeech, a pilot project seeking to amplify the voice of individuals under pressure.

This workshop will bring together grassroots activists alongside leading free expression campaigners to share their recent experiences of censorship, to record and map current censorship challenges and to build impactful free speech networks in Tunisia.

A wide audience are expected to attend the workshop:campaigners, community leaders, network co-ordinators, human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, artists, scholars and representatives of minority groups facing free expression challenges alongside key human rights organisations and independent media.

Tuesday 30 September 2014
Golden Tulip El Mechtel 3 Avenue Ouled
Haffouz | El Omrane, Tunis – Tunisia

To RSVP for this workshop please email Amira Cherif, amira.cherif@outlook.com, +21652479557

Registration will close on Tuesday 23 September 2014 | PDF

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India: Frontline Freespeech Workshop, 24 Sept http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/india-frontline-freespeech-workshop/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/india-frontline-freespeech-workshop/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 15:49:14 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=60280 Index on Censorship in association with the Digital Empowerment Foundation, India, invite you to a workshop to launch Frontline Freespeech, a pilot project seeking to amplify the voice of individuals under pressure.

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Index on Censorship in association with the Digital Empowerment Foundation, India, invite you to a workshop to launch Frontline Freespeech, a pilot project seeking to amplify the voice of individuals under pressure.

This workshop will bring together grassroots activists alongside leading free expression campaigners to share their recent experiences of censorship, to record and map current censorship challenges and to build impactful free speech networks in India.

A wide audience are expected to attend the workshop: campaigners, community leaders, network co-ordinators, human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, artists, scholars and representatives of minority groups facing free expression challenges alongside key human rights organisations and independent media.

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Business Management Academy, Bangalore

To RSVP for this workshop please email Avesta Choudhary, avesta@defindia.net, 011-26532786/87

Registration will close on Wednesday 17 September 2014 | PDF

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Eleven free speech controversies at American universities http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/restricted-free-expression-american-universities/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/restricted-free-expression-american-universities/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 15:48:24 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=60258 A Yale student group's choice to host writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali was met with widespread protest. This is not the only recent example of a free expression dispute at a US campus. Dave Coscia writes

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the University of St. Gallen in 2011 (Photo: International Students’ Committee/Wikimedia Commons)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the University of St. Gallen in 2011 (Photo: International Students’ Committee/Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier this month, Yale President Peter Salovey used his address at the university’s freshman assembly to call for students to protect unfettered freedom of expression, labelling it “essential on a university campus”. Specifically, his speech dealt with the policing of university speakers by protesting student groups. He urged students not to participate in the types of activities that have forced prominent public figures out of speaking roles at other universities.

This address came in anticipation of Yale’s William F Buckley Jr. Program — a group dedicated to promoting intellectual diversity on campus — hosting Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The Dutch activist and writer has been accused of holding strong anti-Islamic views, and her work has been a source of controversy throughout her career.

The president’s advice was not heeded. The announcement of Ali’s inclusion in the speaker series was met with complaints by over 30 student organisations. Spearheaded by Yale’s Muslim Students Association, who wrote a letter and started a petition condemning the speech, groups of all makes attempted to get Ali removed from the docket or to get other speakers added to the event. Despite this, Yale’s faculty stood by the president’s message, and the event went ahead on 16 September.

This follows the case of a reverend at the university being forced to step down after he wrote a three sentence op-ed criticising an article in the New York Times. He argued that a piece on the rise of anti-semitism in Europe ignored the link between this and the Gaza conflict.

But these are not the only recent examples of free expression being limited on American campuses. Here are nine other universities that have faced free speech controversies in the past year.

CAL Berkeley

University of California Berkley chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, sent an email to students on 5 September entitled “Civility and Free Speech”. The email came at the start of the school year marking the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, a protest that helped lift the ban on political activities on campus and increased students’ free speech rights at universities around the world. The email, however, turned into a platform for Dirks to place qualifiers on students’ free speech, saying it should only be practiced “insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so”. Dirks called for civility in free speech, which many, including some faculty members at the university, felt inhibited academic freedom.

Arkansas State University

Arkansas State University attempted to force football players to remove or modify crosses from their helmets, used to commemorate two former teammates who were killed in the last year. The symbol memorialising the former teammates was challenged by a group of outspoken atheists known as the Freedom from Religion Foundation who called the symbol inappropriate. The team has since changed it into a bar baring the initials of the fallen. One player, however, is suing the school, saying that he feels the university has censored the team.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign revoked the hiring of Steven Salaita, an American-Indian studies and Israeli-Arab Relations professor, after he wrote anti-Israeli tweets in response to Israeli violence on the Gaza Strip. Tweets like, “When will the attacks on #Gaza end? What is left for #Israel to prove? Who is left for Israel to kill? This is the logic of genocide.” were posted on the first and second of August. The university claimed that current employees of the university would not be fired on the same grounds, but since Salata was merely promised a position and had yet to start working, the same rules did not apply.

University of Georgia

A group of students at the University of Georgia, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), have filed a lawsuit against the school after it adopted a policy that limits free speech to certain zones. These areas make up less than 1 percent of the campus and are open from 8am-9pm Monday through Friday for protest and other political demonstration. Protests on other parts of campus must be cleared 48 hours in advance by an administrator. ADF’s Travis Barham said in a press release, “Public universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas, and so they should promote and celebrate free speech, not quarantine it.”

Rutgers University

Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice withdrew from her speaking opportunity at Rutgers University’s graduation commencement following student protests. Students were in uproar about the former politician’s involvement in the Iraq war, namely her signing off on the torture of Iraqi citizens. This was not the first time Rice faced protest as a commencement speaker. In 2006 students and faculty alike held up signs during graduation, voicing their displeasure over her inclusion.

Boise State University

Boise State’s chapter of the Young Americans for Student Liberty, a national organisation for education of libertarian values and the constitution invited gun law activist Dick Heller to be a keynote speaker at one of their campus events. The group, seemingly due to the controversial nature of the speaker’s opinions, was charged an additional sum of money as a security fee 24 hours before the event which had been scheduled for six weeks. This came just one week after the university forced a pro-life organisation to put up warning signs at two of their on campus events. Both of these cases were subjects of lawsuits citing the First Amendment right to freedom of expression as being violated.

Citrus College

A student at Citrus College in Glendora, California was threatened with removal from campus after he was caught petitioning against the spying of the National Security Agency outside of the school’s designated free speech zone. These areas make up just over one percent of university premises, with every other part of a campus labelled a “non-public forum”. The student sued, making it the second time in just over a decade the college faced legal action over a free speech issue. California has two laws that that protect free speech on campuses.

University of Massachusetts Amherst

In the autumn of 2013, the University of Massachusetts banned electronic dance music events following the death of one of their students due to an MDMA overdose. The death came at the end of a string of overdoses on campus and in the Massachusetts area and the ban was an attempt to curb this illegal drug use. Students responded with a peaceful protest which featured picketing, petitioning and flash mobs.

Iowa State University

Iowa State University banned t-shirts made by the school’s branch of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The school claimed the use of their mascot on the shirts was a trademark violation. The school filed a lawsuit against NORML after the image was published in a local newspaper, following pressure by state officials who did not want the school to be seen as pro marijuana reform. NORML asked for the case to be dismissed claiming ISU failed “to allege sufficient facts to establish any constitutional right in the use of ISU’s trademarks”.

This article was posted on Thursday 19 Sept 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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24 Sept: Free Banned Books Week Webinar http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/24-sept-free-banned-books-week-webinar/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/24-sept-free-banned-books-week-webinar/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:42:37 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=60251 In this one-hour webinar, we will “travel” from London, to South Carolina, to Texas, to California, to talk with three activists about the problems they face and their efforts to un-ban books as well as Congresswoman Linda Sanchez about why their efforts are so important.

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Wednesday, September 24, 9am PT/12pm ET/5pm BST

In 2013, there were 307 reported requests for books to be removed from America’s libraries, potentially putting those volumes out of reach of students, readers, and learners of all types. While every corner of the map faces unique issues related to library censorship, these issues also catalyze passionate freedom-to-read advocates dedicated to getting the books back on library shelves. In this one-hour webinar, we will “travel” from London, to South Carolina, to Texas, to California, to talk with three activists about the problems they face and their efforts to un-ban books as well as Congresswoman Linda Sanchez about why their efforts are so important.

London, UK: Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, will start us off by discussing issues faced outside of the U.S. and how Index chooses to respond.

Charleston, South Carolina: We will then travel to Charleston — where the graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel has been a flashpoint in a university funding controversy — to hear from Shelia Harrell-Roye, a committee member from Charleston Friends of the Library. With the 2014 Banned Books Week focus on graphic novels, Harrell-Roye will discuss what her group has been doing to support this critically acclaimed book.

Houston, Texas: Moving westward, we will travel to Houston to hear from Tony Diaz, author, radio host, and leader of El Librotraficante. Diaz is a champion for banned books and for ethnic studies textbooks in both Arizona and Texas.

This banned books journey will end in California where Congresswoman Linda Sánchez of the CA 38th District, will offer some closing remarks about why the freedom to read is so important for our nation’s future. Afterward, our very own Ed McBride will wrap up the conversation from Thousand Oaks, CA.

Wednesday, September 24, 9am PT/12pm ET/5pm BST

Registration is free, but spaces are limited. (Note: On the following screens you will be asked to set your timezone preferences, then click register on the third screen to reserve your spot.)

Planning to attend? Let your social space know about this important event using #FreetoRead14.

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Bahrain: Maryam Alkhawaja released http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/bahrain-release-maryam-al-khawaja-27th-un-human-rights-council-geneva/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/bahrain-release-maryam-al-khawaja-27th-un-human-rights-council-geneva/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 07:30:49 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=60266 The human rights defender is subject to a travel ban and is due in court again on 1 October. Aimee Hamilton reports

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Maryam

Maryam al Khawaja has been released

Political activist Maryam Alkhawaja has been released from prison but the charges against her still stand.

Alkhawaja was arrested at the end of last month when she travelled to Bahrain to visit her father, prominent human rights defender and co-founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who has now been on hunger strike for almost four weeks.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, head of advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird), told Index on Censorship he felt Maryam Alkhawaja’s release was a clear example of how international advocacy can be a success. However, he said they are still concerned about her: “We are kind of really getting mixed messages whether her release is just to ease the international pressure,” he added.

A guarantee of a residing address, and a travel ban were the conditions of Alkhawaja’s release. She is also due in court at the beginning of next month, to face charges of assaulting a police officer, which she denies.

Khalid Ibrahim, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) co-director, said: “We call on the government of Bahrain to immediately drop the charges and free her without conditions.”

This week BCHR and GCHR wrote an open letter to Abdulhadi Alkhawaja urging him to end his hunger strike as his life is at serious risk due to prolonged starvation. He also undertook a hunger strike in 2012 which lasted for 110 days.

Abdulhadi Alkhawaja responded from prison yesterday. Thanking his friends for their concern, he added: “But as the world can see we’re in a situation where our only choice to demand rights and freedoms is by risking our lives.”

Ibrahim added, “Abdulhadi should also be freed, along with other wrongfully detained human rights defenders who have been targeted as a result of their peaceful and legitimate activities in defence of human rights.”

Yesterday, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and Bird, along with co-sponsors from several NGOs, hosted an event at the 27th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, entitled Tracking Bahrain’s UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Inaction Through 2014.

The discussion was moderated by prominent human rights activist and president of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab. Speakers at the event were Philippe Dam (Human Rights Watch), Said Haddadi (Amnesty International), James Suzano (ADHRB), Abdulnabi al Ekri (Bahrain Human Rights Organisation – BHRO) and Nidal al Salman (BCHR).

Alwadaei said the event received good coverage, and it was very beneficial for political prisoners in Bahrain. “It was a place where they would hear their voice, where they will basically believe that they are not on their own in this struggle, there is an international community monitoring so they are not isolated,” he told Index.

Also this week, women’s rights defender Ghada Jamsheer was arrested and detained on charges of defamation on Twitter. GCHR and BCHR say her online blog has been blocked in Bahrain since 2009, and they believe these recent charges to be a direct violation of her human rights.

This article was posted on 19 September 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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