Index on Censorship http://www.indexoncensorship.org the voice of free expression Fri, 25 Jul 2014 09:33:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=300 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 Montenegro: Impunity is biggest threat to media freedom http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/montenegro-impunity-biggest-threat-media-freedom/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/montenegro-impunity-biggest-threat-media-freedom/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 09:33:50 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=59208 Seven years after the brutal attack that nearly took the life of journalist Tufik Softic, Montenegrin police detained two men suspected of involvement of his attempted murder. For media unions and observers, the detentions were long overdue, but emblematic of the atmosphere of impunity in Montenegro.

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tufik-softic

Seven years after the brutal attack that nearly took the life of journalist Tufik Softic, Montenegrin police detained two men suspected of involvement of his attempted murder. For media unions and observers, the detentions were long overdue, but emblematic of the atmosphere of impunity in Montenegro.

According to police, the men were detained on 17 July on suspicion of connection with the 2007 attack of Softic, a reporter for the daily newspaper Vijesti. After questioning by the state prosecutor the men were released the same day.

In November 2007, Softic was brutally beaten in front of his home by two hooded assailants wielding baseball bats. Then in August 2013, an explosive device was thrown into the yard of Softic’s family home. The journalist has been provided constant police security since February 2014.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic welcomed the arrest of two suspects over the attack on Softic. She urged, “authorities of Montenegro to persist until all attacks on journalists, especially the murder of Dusko Jovanovic in 2004 are resolved and the perpetrators and masterminds are brought to justice”.

Journalists, media union and NGOs emphasize that the atmosphere of impunity that has been created in Montenegro concerning attacks on journalists is the biggest threat to media freedom. The groups put the responsibilities for the climate on authorities.

NGO Human Rights Action (HRA) highlighted the perilous state of journalism in their report Prosecution of Attacks on Journalists in Montenegro. In the report, HRA outlined 30 cases of threats and violence against journalists, assassinations of journalists and attacks on media property between May 2004 and January 2014.

“Most of these attacks have not been clarified to date. In most cases certain patterns can be observed, for example: victims are the media or individuals willing to criticize the government or organized crime,” said the report.

One-third of all the incidents happened last year. For HRA, this is clear evidence that the atmosphere of impunity is escalating and inviting more attacks on journalists.

“Such an atmosphere of impunity threatens journalists in particular, who are often victims of unresolved attacks. If the state treats these attacks passively, it becomes responsible for the suppression of freedom of speech, the rule of law and democracy,” said the report.

The European Parliament in the resolution on the 2013 progress report on Montenegro expressed “grave concern about the increase in verbal and physical intimidation of journalists,” and “calls for all threats and attacks against journalists to be adequately investigated and prosecuted, including unresolved previous offences.”

UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, undertook an official visit to Montenegro from 11 to 17 June 2013. In the report that followed, he recommended that “the identification of responsibilities in all cases of violence and intimidation against journalists must be achieved without delay, so perpetrators are brought to justice.”

That police needed seven years to detain the suspects that brutally assaulted Softic “could be used as an indicator of effectiveness and dedication of the police in resolving these cases”, underlined Marijana Camovic, chief of the Montenegrin Media Union.  “Yes”, she said, “we welcomed the arrest of two suspects, but let’s have in mind that this is just one of the many cases that need to be resolved.”

For the Media Union, it is a common occurrence for criminals and people with political ties to threaten, berate and attack journalists. “Nowadays journalism is the most dangerous profession in Montenegro and that is why we need extra protection,” said Camovic.

Seeking greater protection for journalists, Human Rights Action has proposed the introduction of two new and amendments to criminal offenses: “Grave types of murder” and “Serious bodily injury” with the aim of increased protection of journalists in performing professional duties. In the same manner, the Media Union is advocating for similar amendments so journalists could have similar protection under the law as police officers.

In December 2013, the Montenegrin government established a commission for monitoring actions of authorities in the investigation of cases of attacks on journalists. As a result of their work, in January 2014, Dusko Markovic, deputy prime minister and justice minister, was charged because he allegedly withheld information on the murder of Dusko Jovanovic, the editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper Dan, in 2004.  Montenegrin media reported that at that time Markovic was head of the secret service.

More reports from Montenegro via mediafreedom.ushahidi.com

Arson attack on vehicles owned by Montenegrin daily

Politician and journalist discredit TV station


This article was posted on July 25, 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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Padraig Reidy: How your well-meaning retweet can do more harm than good http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/padraig-reidy-well-meaning-retweet-can-harm-good/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/padraig-reidy-well-meaning-retweet-can-harm-good/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:09:14 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=59215 Whatever it is you care about, think before you tweet: Is this too good to be true? Do I have any way of checking this for myself?

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Last week, the social web, at one end of its endless, pendulum-like swings between mawkishness and self-righteous fury, discovered a letter from the head teacher at Barrowford primary school, East Lancashire. It was a sweet-natured letter, congratulating students on their exam results and then going on to note all the things exams can’t measure and examiners don’t know:

“The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do.

“They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture. They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day.”

…and so on; examiners did not that “know that you have travelled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story ” etc etc etc.

All very sweet sentiments, and new and traditional outlets went crazy for it. The letter went viral, and then the mainstream media, including BBC Radio 4’s The Today Programme, covered the fact the letter had gone viral.

There were a few problems with the well-meaning letter, though. As Toby Young pointed out in the Telegraph, it was incorrect to say the people who “scored” the children’s Key Stage 2 achievements “do not know each of you the way your teachers do”; part of the assessment is done by teachers at the schools.

Meanwhile, children in East Lancashire do not, generally, go to “really neat” places. American kids go to “really neat” places. Barrowford kids might, say, get taken to Turf Moor to see a Burnley match, or more likely at this time of year, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and it would be proper good.

The reason for these disparities was simple: large sections of the letter had been lifted from elsewhere; apparently, it’s been circulating in various forms since originally being written by a Mary Ginley of Massachusetts in 1999.

When various people (including me) pointed this out on Twitter, they were seen as being somewhere between the Grinch and ISIS in terms of spoilsport misanthropy. “So what if it wasn’t original?” we were told. The sentiment was correct, and that’s what was important.

It may seem unduly curmudgeonly to complain about a rural school’s end of term letter, but the point of interest here is how quickly it spread, and how blase people have been about the basics of who actually wrote it.

Consider another example: after Algeria went out of the World Cup, it was widely rumoured on Facebook, Twitter and other networks that the team had donated its fee for the tournament to “Gaza”; not the ICRC or MSF, or even Hamas, just vague “Gaza”.

It felt good, and it felt nice, and it was plainly not true. But no one really cared whether it was true or not because (a) Algeria had been quite an enjoyable team to watch, b) people wanted to think someone was doing something about Gaza, and c) well, the Algerian team were Muslims, so they’re probably concerned about Palestine (I never said this was a well-thought out view).

This pattern was repeated when German Muslim player Mesut Ozil was similarly reported to have donated his fee to “Gaza” after his team’s eventual World Cup triumph. The news spread like wildfire, because people wanted it to be true. It wasn’t. Ozil had already pledged his cash to projects in Brazil.

The Gaza conflict has provided more of these moments: a picture of thousands of Orthodox Jewish men protesting in New York is widely touted as a pro-Palestine protest; it is not. It is taken from a protest against Israeli conscription laws in March; a meme circulates quoting actor Robert De Niro comparing Israel to a mad dog; there is no evidence that he has ever said this.

But these things, like the school letter, circulate because they feel right and they make us feel good.

As the old line says “a lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on”. The speed with which we can now move information around surely compels us to be even more mindful of this fact. And yet, what’s the answer? Social media thrives on the instantaneous; slowing it down could be severely damaging to the positive aspects of it. Draconian Chinese laws on “spreading rumours” are reported to have severely affected the number of interactions on social media. In democracies, it would likely be impossible to prevent feelgood-but-false memes, as well as straighforward propaganda, to spread without a massive crackdown on free expression.

For a long time, the web has demanded that we “become our own editors”, ensuring that we take in a broad amount of information rather than merely reading the sites we like on the topics we like, avoiding challenging or new ideas.

But the editorial process must always involve a high level of scepticism; some of the greatest journalistic failures of the past 40 years, such as the Hitler Diaries Hoax, or Piers Morgan’s disastrous publishing of fake pictures of Iraq war abuses in the Daily Mirror, came down to an editor’s and others involved required scepticism being overwhelmed by a story that was simply too good to be true. Disaster ensued.

The same must apply for anyone who thinks themselves vaguely “active” in the political sense on the web. Inaccurate information ultimately damages your cause. So the next time you see a meme on  NHS spending, Israel, or whatever it is you care about, think before you tweet: Is this too good to be true? Do I have any way of checking this for myself?

This article was published on July 24, 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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Hungary: Council of Europe shares concern over NGO audits http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/hungary-spat-norway-fidesz-government-rounds-civil-society/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/hungary-spat-norway-fidesz-government-rounds-civil-society/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 06:54:05 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=58872 Hungarian NGOs are facing a rough summer: The Government Control Office (KEHI) has launched a series of investigations into grants they received from the Norway Financial Mechanism.

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hungary-norway

Hungarian NGOs are facing a rough summer: The Government Control Office (KEHI) has launched a series of investigations into grants they received from the Norway Financial Mechanism. Now the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, has written to János Lázár, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office to express concern over the situation. 

In the letter, Muižnieks told Lázár that he had been informed by several parties that audits were being conducted over the grants. A forthcoming report will further detail the monitoring that Muižnieks was conducting around media freedom in the country. For his part, Lázár has responded to the letter from the COE commissioner.

As Index reported on July 8, the government controls come after a long smear campaign with members of the Fidesz government accusing these NGOs to be proxies for “foreign interests”, and that Norway is using the program to exert direct political influence on Hungary.

“There is panic and uncertainty in the Hungarian civil society. In this respect, the controls are very effective, even if there will be no consequences,” says Tamas Bodoky, editor-in-chief of Atlatszo.hu, an investigative journalism outlet also targeted by the KEHI audit.

Atlatszo.hu decided not to comply with the government inspection, regarding it as unlawful. They say that KEHI is an agency overseeing government financial matters, and does not have the authority to investigate financing for NGOs. However, they have nothing to hide, so they published all relevant records concerning the use of funds on the website of their partner organisation, Asimov Foundation.

A number of NGOs followed Atlatszo’s example, but it is unclear what the repercussions of this decision might be. According to Bodoky, KEHI could freeze their bank accounts, suspend their VAT number, and fine them as well.

It is difficult to portray these NGOs as strongly opposing the Fidesz rule. Some of the organisations receiving grants from the Norway Financial Mechanism have been involved in anti-government protests, but others have fruitful cooperation with the government. The vast majority of grant recipients have no political involvement at all.

Bodoky believes the government controls are a small-time retaliation for the decision of the Norwegian government to suspend the payments from the EEA and Norway Grants. This fund represents the financial contribution of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein towards reducing economic and social disparities in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Hungary was set to receive 20 billion euros in the 2014-2020 period from this fund. However, the Hungarian government recently made important changes to the system by which EU and Norway development grants are administered. They did not consult with the donors. As a result the Norwegian government suspended the payments.

This measure did not affect the considerably smaller NGO Fund, operated by a Hungarian consortium of NGOs. The overall objective of this fund is to “strengthen civil society development and enhance contribution to social justice, democracy and sustainable development”.

The programme focuses on projects dealing with the human rights of minorities, good governance, combating racism and xenophobia, combating discrimination, social exclusion, gender inequalities and gender-based violence.

Some members of the NGOs administering the fund appear to have links to Politics Can Be Different (LMP), a small liberal party. Apparently this was the reason why State Secretary Janos Lazar, the “strong man” of the Fidesz government decided to write an open letter to the official representative of the Fund’s donors, Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s Minister of EEA and EU Affairs, accusing the Norway government of intervention into the internal affairs of Hungary.

Deputy State Secretary Nandor Csepreghy said in an interview that the Hungarian government would prefer Norway’s Civil Fund to provide financial support through the Hungarian government, whose “legitimacy comes from society and the voters”. Csepreghy believes that any other scheme can be interpreted as a direct involvement into Hungary’s internal political affairs.

Recent reports from mediafreedom.ushahidi.com:

Hungary: Companies owned by local council abrogate advertising contracts

Hungary: Investigative journalism group says it will not comply with government audit

Hungary: Officials target RTL Klub after critical reports

Hungary: NGO with close ties to Hungarian government will ‘monitor’ media attacks

Hungary: Blogger resigns after political pressure

This article was posted on July 8, 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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Letter to Article 29 Working Party on the Right to be Forgotten http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/letter-article-29-working-party-right-forgotten/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/letter-article-29-working-party-right-forgotten/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 16:19:42 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=59200 To: Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin Chair, Article 29 Working Party EUROPEAN COMMISSION B-1049 BRUSSELS DG Justice Dear Ms Falque-Pierrotin, We are writing to express our deep concern over the effects of the so-called Right to be Forgotten ruling, issued by the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) on May 13, 2014. Since the ruling was […]

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To:
Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin
Chair, Article 29 Working Party
EUROPEAN COMMISSION
B-1049 BRUSSELS
DG Justice

Dear Ms Falque-Pierrotin,

We are writing to express our deep concern over the effects of the so-called Right to be Forgotten ruling, issued by the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) on May 13, 2014.

Since the ruling was issued, Index on Censorship, an international freedom of expression charity, has consistently and repeatedly expressed reservations about the failure of the judgement to include recommendations for oversight mechanisms and provisions that would ensure freedom of expression and information rights, as well as obligations, are balanced with privacy rights. We are disturbed both by the loose wording of the ruling and by recent comments from European information commissioners that appear to suggest that authorities are making a default presumption that – in the majority of cases – privacy rights trump those of free expression and right to information.

Index is concerned that without the rapid introduction of uniform, Europe-wide guidelines from regulators on the implementation of, and oversight process for, all search engines implementing Right to be Forgotten, the system will lead to swathes of information that should be publicly available being hidden from sight. This includes not just serious journalism but also information about, for example, individuals who use comment lines below articles as a form of harassment.

Index calls on Article 29 as a matter of urgency to:
• issue detailed guidance on the types of information that can be considered “irrelevant” by search engines. Simply asking search engines to have a due regard to information that is “in the public interest” is insufficient guidance;
• detail an appropriate mechanism of oversight to ensure that it is possible for data protection or other relevant national and European authorities to examine any search engines’ decision on a Right to be Forgotten request;
• include an appeals mechanism that allows publishers of content who have had links removed to be able to challenge that decision. Index understands the need to balance privacy rights with rights to information and freedom of expression rights. However, we are concerned that the recent actions of the ECJ and data protection authorities has failed to sufficiently taken into account the latter, and we would urge greater consultation with civil society groups on the implementation of this ruling and in the development of future data protection guidelines to ensure that that these rights are protected.

Yours faithfully,

Jodie Ginsberg
CEO, Index on Censorship

Copies to: European information commissioners

Letters from the Society of Editors:

Letter to Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin on the Right to be Forgotten

Letter to the Prime Minister David Cameron on the Right to be Forgotten

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About Index’s UK arts programme http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/artfreedomwales-project/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/artfreedomwales-project/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 15:43:51 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=59192 Why we are doing this programme We believe that freedom of artistic expression lies at the heart of artistic practice and the debate about it needs to be kept live and abreast of changes in society. Index on Censorship’s UK Programme “Freedom of expression is not self-perpetuating, but needs to be maintained by the constant […]

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Why we are doing this programme
We believe that freedom of artistic expression lies at the heart of artistic practice and the debate about it needs to be kept live and abreast of changes in society.

Index on Censorship’s UK Programme
“Freedom of expression is not self-perpetuating, but needs to be maintained by the constant vigilance of those who care about it.” — Michael Scammell – Index on Censorship Magazine 1972

Support for artistic freedom allows the artist to push boundaries, to say what is not being said, imagine the world differently, act as critic and speak truth to power. Artistic freedom of expression thrives on risk and experimentation, embracing controversy and diversity of opinion and the debate and dialogue triggered by challenging art.

You only have to think of what happens to artists in societies that are unfree for this to be thrown into sharp relief.

But even in countries where freedoms are upheld as a core principle, artistic freedoms are all too easily eroded by social, political and sometimes legal constraints. ArtFreedomWales is part of a wider Index programme that is taking stock of the support for free expression across the arts sector in the UK, and asking is the space for artistic freedom of expression expanding or shrinking?

Last year we held a major conference at the Southbank Centre in London- Taking the Offensive which identified and debated the social, political or legal controls that shape the cultural landscape. Nicholas Serota, Director Tate, gave the key note speech and the conference discussed the triggers for and the prevalence of self-censorship across our cultural organisations and institutions. It also discussed how the sector could come together to reinforce support for artistic freedom in general and when controversy breaks in particular. (Read the report here.) In May, we held a symposium in Belfast exploring these issues in Northern Ireland. (The report will be available shortly.)

We are currently running a programme called ArtFreedomWales — a series of online events culminating in a day-long conference in the autumn to explore the state of artistic freedom and practice in Wales. Supported by Arts Council Wales, the programme will bring together Welsh artists and activists to discuss the issues and begin mapping a plan for action. Watch the first online event here.

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Brazil’s Luiz Ruffato: “We must defend freedom under any circumstance” http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/conversation-interview-luiz-ruffato-brazilian-journalist-writer/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/conversation-interview-luiz-ruffato-brazilian-journalist-writer/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 10:21:49 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=59101 While researching Brazil's legislation called the biographies' law, Index on Censorship's Brazil contibutor Simone Marques spoke to award-winning Brazilian author Luiz Ruffato, whose works include acclaimed novel They Were Many Horses.

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Journalist and author Luiz Ruffato (Photo: Companhia das Letras)

Journalist and author Luiz Reffato (Photo: Companhia das Letras)

While researching Brazil’s legislation called the biographies’ law, Index on Censorship’s Brazil contibutor Simone Marques spoke to award-winning Brazilian author Luiz Ruffato, whose works include acclaimed novel They Were Many Horses.

Index: By defending the idea of controlling of literary works, such as biographies, wouldn’t some Brazilian artists be executing the role of a censor?

Ruffato: This is a paradoxical subject, because these artists live from the public image they built. People do not buy only a song or a film, people also buy the exposition of this artist. And the moment he becomes a public figure he is no longer a private figure. If this person is no longer a private figure, it is possible that he may have his own life scrutinised. I do not see any problem with that. I think anyone can manage their own life the way they feel like. Whoever wants to write a biography about me can keep calm. They will find absolutely nothing that may dishonour my image. But if they did find something, it would be okay, because I am exposing myself, I am living off that, I am somehow using my public image to make money. Therefore I think that when you move into this public world, you must be aware of that.

I believe it is everyone’s right to know who the people that make the history of their country are, and the artists also make the history of a country — with or without a political standpoint, he is contributing or not contributing to thinking about the country. Therefore I believe it is perfectly reasonable that you know who this person is. That is why I am a little bit shocked, because we must defend freedom under any circumstance; and it is not relative freedom, freedom for me is a universal concept.The freedom we have here appears more like a relative freedom.

We are living a very strange period in Brazil, a moment when the issue of intolerance is really present. This is very curious because we had a military dictatorship, we have a political history of intolerance. And it shocks me that in the exact moment when we are exercising the biggest continued period of democracy, we are at the same time living a moment of absolute intolerance. It is not just a matter of biographies. Politically, any criticism of your actions immediately positions you within a certain ideological bias. It is a binary judgment; it is yes or no. Moreover, life is not yes or no, life is often made up of maybes, and that is why I am shocked because this positioning of intolerance does not take us to a good place.

Index: Where do you notice this type of intolerance?

Ruffato: This intolerance occurs at all levels. For example, in the virtual world. It is the place of intolerant practices, because there people exercise their prejudices and their authoritarian world views, I am shocked, it is absurd.

This positioning against the biographies I think is a bias of intolerance, an authoritarian bias. It is as if you are being placed in specific niches all the time, and I refuse to do that. I try to exercise the freedom that fits me by never having truths — not imposing truths. I defend relative truths. As well as believing that freedom is absolute, I believe truth must be relative. There is only absolute freedom where truths are relative. Where there is absolute truth there is no freedom.

In Brazil, we have a very childish thing, something that children also have , that is of closing our eyes and pretending things have disappeared. I think we have this in our society, you know? It is as if we closed our eyes and that problem did not exist anymore. We have never stopped to discuss our political history, which is a history of dictatorships. For example, the end of the Brazilian dictatorship did not happen because there was a revolution: it was an agreement between the politicians and the military that included a wide amnesty, general and unrestricted. In other words, nobody killed nobody, nobody did anything to anyone, let us play forward. Obviously, this deeply marks our society. We are an extremely authoritarian and intolerant society.

We are xenophobic, we are racists, we are sexists, we are homophobic, and this shines well on the internet. And we are hypocrites as well. We are not a bit cordial. We kill: domestic violence in Brazil is among the highest in the world, and this happens inside our homes; urban violence in Brazil is among the highest in the world. No, we are not a bit cordial. We are only cordial when people agree with us. When somebody disagrees with us, our reaction is extremely violent. But the Brazilian does not disagree in front of the person. We are used to give a pat on the back and, when the person leaves, we stick the knife in their back. Nobody admits that they do it. People do things, or do not do things, and do not have the guts to tell you. We do not have the culture of divergence, of debate. When we diverge, we always react in a hidden way, because disagreement is something unacceptable, it is terrible.

Index: If the biographies’s law is approved in the senate, we will have, really, more freedom to publish books about people?

Ruffato: This is another problem. I think that where there is an excess of laws, they are meant to be circumvented. The less laws there are, the better, because then you know where you are going. Brazil is a country of lawyers, so you must make many laws so they contradict each other and have loopholes. Particularly, I assume that the biographer is a decent person, that he is an intellectually honest person. Therefore, when an author writes a biography, he will face the biographee as a fallible and susceptible to making wrong decisions human being. The author should have a very well grounded and contextualized story he is telling. If the author is not an honest, decent person, and if the biographee’s family feel somehow offended by the work, then I think it is absolutely correct that they bring an appeal or a lawsuit to force the author to confirm, correct or retract what was written. This is within the norm. We have to protect the biographee, this is indisputable. I think we have to have a legislation that protects the biographee, but that protects him from libel, slander and infamy, not from writing things that were factual and occurred. Because otherwise we will fall into a very curious situation. For example, an author who wants to tell the life story of a president would have to have the subject or his family authorise the biography: what kind of history will we tell? It is a government biography.

So, how will we tell the history of Brazil? A history where the ills of Brazil cannot be told? A history, for example, where there is no extermination of indigenous. So we run a very serious risk of failing to tell a more decent history, with its contradictions, because history is also not a truth, but it is a narrative, and biographies also help to compose these narratives. I think this is very dangerous.

Our laws are made ​​to be circumvented and are not clear. I think that this [biographies' law] should not be an issue. They exist, people live, and some people have importance beyond a moment. So, I think that that should not even be a matter of discussion. But as it is, I do not keep calm, things can end up taking an unexpected turn into intolerance. There will always be gaps because the laws are not clear. And it’s a huge pretension for someone to want to take care of their image as if it was something personal, of their own. It is so stupid! You may describe your father, and each sibling will tell the story a different way, no one will even have the same father or mother. It is a silly idea to think that someone can have an authorised biography because that biography tells “the truth”. I am very afraid of societies that have truths. I do not trust them, because a society that has absolute truths must be very sick, there is something very wrong with it.

Index: Have you ever faced any kind of censorship in Brazil?

Ruffato: The book Eles Eram Muitos Cavalos (2001) was adopted in a university of Minas Gerais admission test and later on was “unadopted”. Because the admissions test was of a religious institution, they claimed that there was too much bad language in the book. Yes, the book has some profanity, but they are in a context. There is no curse word just for the sake of being a curse word. It was the only episode about it. And if there was some problem of constraint in a work of mine, I would keep writing anyway. I write for my readers, not to please anyone.

Index:  If you could write a biography today, within this context of censorship? Who would?

Ruffato: I would like to do a biography, yes, but of a person who probably will not cause any problems, someone who has been very biographed, which is Machado de Assis. Just to change the focus, there are already many biographies of him. My theory is that he would not have written what he wrote had he not been who he was. He was a person who had a look from the bottom up. It was this gaze that I think determines the type of literature that he wrote. But I’m very interested in writing a fake biography. When you tell someone else’s story, you are telling your own story, as psychoanalysis says. I want to radicalize it, though, creating a character whose biography I would write. It is not a novel. It is a fake biography, in which I would tell the story of the character with many witnesses, with hundreds of interviews, many documents read, but it was all fake. Maybe I get to be sued: it would be an authorized biography “unauthorized”.

This article was published on July 17, 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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Recap Report: Wales as a centre of artistic freedom http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/recap-report-wales-centre-artistic-freedom/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/recap-report-wales-centre-artistic-freedom/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 08:30:34 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=59190

ArtFreedomWales launched on Friday with the first online conversation about artistic freedom of expression in Wales.

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Index on Censorship’s ArtFreedomWales launched on Friday with the first online conversation about artistic freedom of expression in Wales with playwright Tim Price, singer, actor, writer Lisa Jen, poet and writer Kathryn Gray and visual artist Leah Crossley – though unfortunately we lost Crossley’s connection early on.

The live-broadcast, hosted by Julia Farrington (Associate Arts Producer Index) opened on the question: “How free do you feel to express yourself as an artist in Wales?”.

Price kicked off by talking about the constraints posed by the Welsh language. “We are a bilingual nation, but we [artists] are not all bilingual…There is a whole element of Welsh experience that isn’t available to me because I don’t speak Welsh.

Gray agreed, “language barrier blocks expression and collective understanding of our differences and similarities. This is disabling for the arts in Wales.”

Jen, whose first language is Welsh, moves comfortably between the two – singing in Welsh, writing plays in English – as this seems the most natural way to express herself. But there are massive problems “when you try and do things bilingually like run a workshop in Welsh, and bilingualise it – then it’s impossible. English always oppresses the Welsh”.

Our next broadcast in Welsh in August 1st, will look specifically at the opportunities for and obstacles to expression for artists working in Welsh.

Price also stressed that for most people access to opportunities to express themselves through the arts is the greatest obstacle of all. The panellists all agreed that this was as much to do with a “collective low self-esteem across the country” or as Jen put it: “Whether you are a Welsh language speaker or not, we are a flipping insecure nation.” Price said that the most common problem he finds when he runs writing workshops “is that many people believe that no one can possibly be interested in what we have to say.” The legacy of being England’s oldest colony and Westminster’s failure to invest in infrastructure, were cited as contributory causes.

Other obstacles discussed included self-censorship – how cultural institutions and the subsidy culture influence what is sayable, the imbalance between the considerable support for poets and the lack of support for playwrights who want to make the big step into the professional arena. Gray also pointed to the Welsh media’s lack of critical engagement on an artistic or political level that “would help people to understand the regime we are living under”.

There were strong positives too – the support for emerging artists, a great DIY culture amongst fellow artists at grassroots level, new cultural infrastructure – and the acknowledgement that Wales was an exciting place to be an artist now. Jen: “We have freedom to do whatever we want but few playwrights are making big, political work with a big massive voice.” She went on to say that there is no shortage of issues for Welsh artists to make work about but “we are playing safe. I am sick of seeing safe work that doesn’t tell me anything. I want to feel scared, feel danger.” Gary agreed, “Art should be about smashing things up. May things come from the ruins.”

But is there an appetite for more courageous, challenging work amongst the audience? The panellists agreed that the audience in Wales is innately conservative – the fact that Radio Cymru said that Jen’s music was not suitable for daytime listening is evidence of this – has to be taken into account. As Price said “We are a nation under siege from England, so culture remains about preserving and sustaining what we have.”

Follow and participate in the discussions @artfreedomwales.

Find out more about Index’s UK arts programme.

This article was posted on July 21, 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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Journalists covering MH17 threatened by separatists http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/dutch-journalist-covering-mh17-threatened-separatists/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/dutch-journalist-covering-mh17-threatened-separatists/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 06:53:47 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=59184 Separatists in East Ukraine threatened a Dutch journalist who was reporting on the Malaysia Airlines MH17 disaster.

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Separatists in East Ukraine threatened journalists reporting on the Malaysia Airlines MH17 disaster. The plane was downed on Thursday 18 July killing 298 people, including 193 Dutch citizens.

Writing for The Daily Beast, Anna Nemtsova and two colleagues were detained at the morgue by separatists.

On Monday 21 July, Rudy Bouma, a reporter for the Dutch TV broadcaster Nieuwsuur, took photos of rebels carrying weapons at the train station in Donetsk. The separatists controlled the train that was carrying the bodies of the victims.

More reports from The Netherlands via mediafreedom.ushahidi.com

Journalist denied entrance to public court hearing

‘Rules for using drones by journalists too restricted’

Journalists’ cameras seized by police

Dutch magazine on trial for photographing princess

This article was posted on July 21, 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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Shout Art Loud: A “living report” on art and sexual violence in Egypt http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/shout-art-loud-living-report-art-sexual-violence-egypt/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/shout-art-loud-living-report-art-sexual-violence-egypt/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 13:06:04 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=59012 Graffiti artists, cartoonists, dancers and actors are fighting back against rising levels of violence and sexism in the streets of Cairo, according to a new documentary from Index.

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Graffiti artists, cartoonists, dancers and actors are fighting back against rising levels of violence and sexism in the streets of Cairo, according to a new documentary from freedom of expression charity Index on Censorship.

Documentary maker Melody Patry interviewed actors, dancers and other artists around Egypt, where 99% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, and 80% feel unsafe on the street. Sexual violence has risen sharply in Egypt in the past few years. During the period February 2011 to January 2014, Egyptian women’s rights groups documented thousands of cases of sexual harassment, as well as crimes of sexual violence against at least 500 women, including gang rapes and mob-sexual assaults with sharp objects and fingers.

With police, politicians and the judiciary seeming incapable of tackling the issue effectively, activists are turning to the arts to help lead the fight back. “Art is one of the most necessary mediums to impact society,” says Deena Mohamed who created a web-comic about a hijab-wearing superheroine who fights daily sexual harassment. “For people who are unaware of the issues women go through, I hope it helps them understand or at least give them something to think about.”

An interactive documentary intended as a “living report” that will be continuously updated, Shout Art Loud shows how Cairo residents are using different tactics to fight rising sexual harassment, including pro-women graffiti, drama workshops and street performances.

“We believe that spreading images, things that people are familiar with, women figures that people know and sayings that people know brings back some positivity about women in general,” says Merna Thomas, co-founder of a graffiti campaign to promote women’s rights in Cairo’s public spaces.

See how Egyptians are using theatre, dance, music and street art to tackle the issue of sexual harassment and violence against women in Egypt in this interactive documentary, which features interviews with artists, original artwork, videos and performances, including from Index’s 2014 Freedom of Expression Arts Award winner Mayam Mahmoud. You can access the documentary here: indexoncensorship.org/shoutartloud

“This innovative documentary is a reminder of the vital role artistic expression plays in tackling taboo subjects like sexual violence — in Egypt and beyond,” said Index CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “We want to bring this issue to a wider audience to show just how important artists and writers can be in bringing about change, and to tell the story in a new way.”

For further information and interview requests, please call +44 (0)207 260 2660

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ArtFreedomWales: Wales as a centre for artistic freedom of expression http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/july-18-artfreedomwales/ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/07/july-18-artfreedomwales/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 10:59:00 +0000 http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=59067 The first of a series of online conversations -- this one with Tim Price - playwright, Kathryn Gray - poet and writer, Lisa Jen - musician/actor/writer and Leah Crossley – artist -- about artistic expression in Wales.

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Index on Censorship is delighted to announce the first two events in a series of online conversations about artistic freedom of expression in Wales. They form part of our ArtFreedomWales programme looking at how artistic freedom is regarded, supported, debated and promoted across the arts sector, in the press, by the public, by funders and policy makers in the UK.

Wales as a centre for artistic freedom of expression – the opportunities and the obstacles.
Online conversation with Tim Price – playwright, Kathryn Gray – poet and writer, Lisa Jen – musician/actor/writer and Leah Crossley – artist.

What: ArtFreedomWales
When: July 18, 11am (BST)
Where: Take part in the Google Hangout here

Artists working in Welsh – opportunities and obstacles to expression
Online conversation with Arwel Gruffydd – Artistic Director Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, and Bethan Parry Jones – broadcaster, journalist and writer.

What: ArtFreedomWales
When: August 1, 11am (BST)
Where: Take part in the Google Hangout here
Please note: this conversation will be in Welsh with an English summary at the end.

These are the first two of four events we are live-streaming over the summer in the lead up to a symposium in Cardiff at Chapter Arts Centre (expected in October) on artistic freedom of expression in Wales. You will be able to email and tweet questions to the panels during the discussion. We want to hear from everyone producing and participating in the arts in Wales who has something to say about freedom of expression. These discussions will inform the agenda for a symposium in Cardiff and each will focus on a different theme that we have identified through our initial research.

What are the issues in Wales? What are the opportunities? What are the obstacles? What has the right to freedom of expression got to do with Wales’ major cultural debates and policies – bi-lingualism, engaging young people and ethnically diverse voices, tackling poverty, maximising on new cultural infrastructure, having an international voice?

Last year we held a conference in London ‘Taking the Offensive’ which identified and debated the social, political or legal controls that shape the cultural landscape. (Read the full report here.) We held a symposium in Belfast in May exploring these issues in Northern Ireland. (The report is due shortly.)

We want to engage with everyone who is interested in this subject. Welsh translations of all our key messages and information will be provided. Given the limitations of the budget we cannot make this a fully bilingual project, but we will ensure that Welsh speaking artists are involved in all aspects of the programme and translation is available.

Arts Council of Wales supports this programme

Arts Council of Wales supports this programme

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