This week at Index: An intolerable intrusion of artistic freedom
08 Feb 2019

Friday 8 February 2019

Artists should not have to seek government approval to make their art

Draconian legislation currently being prepared by the Ugandan government will curtail freedom of expression

More than 130 musicians, writers and artists, together with many British and Ugandan members of parliament, have signed a petition calling on Uganda to drop plans for regulations that include vetting songs, videos and film scripts prior to their release.  Musicians, producers, promoters, filmmakers and all other artists would also have to register with the government and obtain a licence that can be revoked for a range of violations.

Index on Censorship is deeply concerned by these proposals, which are likely to be used to stifle criticism of the government.

“Around the world from Cuba to Indonesia and Uganda, artists are being pressured by governments seeking to control their art and their message. These misplaced efforts are an intolerable intrusion into artistic freedom and must not be enacted,” Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index said.

Signatories to the letter include U2’s Bono and Adam Clayton, author Wole Soyinka, and Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell.

Full text available here.


Index chair Trevor Phillips 

Universities are allowing free speech to be curtailed in favour of 'rule of the mob', former equalities chief warns

Universities are allowing free speech to be curtailed on campuses in favour of “rule of the mob”, the former equalities chief has warned, as he says vice-Chancellors must stop behaving like “frightened children” and take a stand.

Trevor Phillips, who wrote the National Union of Students’ (NUS) original “no platforming” policy in the 1970s, said that it is now being used in an “ugly” and “authoritarian” way.

He said that the policy was designed to counter the rise of the far-Right on campuses and ensure that National Front speakers were barred from addressing students.

Read the full interview in The Telegraph

Also read
Index report: Uncomfortable, but educational: Freedom of expression in UK universities


11 February: The hard news debate: Can quality journalism survive in a world of fake news and social media?

Senior journalists and media leaders, including Index's CEO Jodie Ginsberg, are to debate at a London Press Club event whether quality journalism can survive. The panel of experts will be asked how traditional journalism can tackle the risks of fake news dominating social media.

When: Monday 11 February, 6:30pm
Where: Stationers Hall, London, EC4M 7DD
Tickets: £5 via EventBrite


11 February: Pervasive and personal: Observations on free speech online

Technology has linked much of the world together, but in its complexity and ubiquity, technology also has deeply personal qualities. It has helped us build relationships and has become a part of our daily lives, something we carry in our pockets wherever we go. This duality of tech and particularly the Internet—its ability to be vast yet intimate—has enabled people to express themselves in unique ways, but also brought with it some serious challenges. Where open channels into each other’s lives exist, the spread of harassment, abuse and vitriol can be equally pervasive and personal. 

Index's associate arts producer Julia Farrington will be participating.

When: Monday 11 February 2019 6:30PM-8:30PM EST
Where: The New School, Theresa Lang Community Center, 55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor, New York
Tickets: Free via Eventbrite. Registration required. On registration, participants will receive preparatory reading material.


7 March: Is humanity in denial?

The Holocaust never happened. The planet isn’t warming. Vaccines cause autism. All of us deny inconvenient truths sometimes, but what happens when denial becomes ‘denialism’, a systematic attempt to overturn established scholarly findings? And how do we relate to this phenomenon in a ‘post-truth’ age?

Our panellists, whose expertise covers history, contemporary culture, the law and psychotherapy, discuss the significance of phenomena such as Holocaust denial and climate change denial, and how they relate to ‘everyday’ denial.

When: Thursday 7 March, 8:30pm
Where: Hall One, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG
Tickets: £16.50 via Jewish Books Week


8 March: Unspeakable: Banned books, difficult words, taboos

Essex Book Festival and Index on Censorship invite you to join them for Unspeakable, a day of challenging and illuminating conversations, performance, exhibitions and workshops hosted by the University of Essex, that explores historic and contemporary issues of censorship, no-platforming, freedom of speech, and taboos.

These events are part of the Essex Book Festival 1-31 March 2019

When: Friday 8 March 2019
Where: University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Tickets: Check the information with each of the sessions.


Banned Books: Exhibition and presentation

When: 12.00 – 1.00pm
Where: Special Collections Room, Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex, Wivehoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Tickets: Free. No booking required.
Some of the most controversial books in history are now recognised as classics. The Bible, works by Shakespeare, Ovid and James Joyce, to mention but a few. Banned Books delves into the University of Essex’s Archives to reveal a fascinating collection of banned books, pamphlets and texts, some dating back hundreds of years.

The Burning Question: Trevor Phillips and Professor Shohini Chaudhuri

When: 1.30 – 2.30pm
Where: Lakeside Theatre, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Tickets£5 via Essex Book Festival / Mercury Theatre
Trevor Phillips, writer, broadcaster, former president of the NUS, former chairman of the Equality and the Human Rights Commission, and current chairman of Index on Censorship, will discuss the impact of historic and contemporary censorship across art, history and literature with Professor Shohini Chaudhuri from the University of Essex, a film activist as well as educator.

The Play’s the Thing: What happens when theatre gets censored

When: 3.30–4.30pm
Where: Lakeside Theatre, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Tickets£7, £5 concessions (27 years and under) via Essex Books Festival / Mercury Theatre

Rachael Jolley, editor of Index on Censorship magazine, in discussion with actors from the world famous Globe theatre.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the end of an era, when all plays had to be signed off by the British Lord Chamberlin before performance, the panel will discuss why we should worry about censorship of what we see on stage, and how words and ideas are restricted today.

Dean Atta: Performance and audience Q&A

When: 7.00 – 8.00pm
Where: Lakeside Theatre, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Tickets£5 via Essex Book Festival / Mercury Theatre

A performance and audience Q&A with poet Dean Atta, as part of Unspeakable at the University of Essex.

Spoken Word Poet Dean Atta’s powerful debut poetry collection I Am Nobody’s Nigger was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize. Dean has performed across the UK and internationally, including performances at Hay Festival, Latitude and Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He has been commissioned to write poems for BBC Radio 4, BBC World Service, Dazed & Confused, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern. Dean is currently working on his second poetry collection The Black Flamingo.

Essex Book Festival is one of the highlights of Essex’s cultural calendar. Each March it hosts over 100 events in over 45 venues across the county, including theatres, libraries, schools, universities, cafes and art galleries. More information is available here.

Index on Censorship defends people's freedom to express themselves without fear of harm or persecution. We publish censored writers and artists, monitor and campaign against censorship, and encourage debate.  

We rely on donations from readers and supporters. By donating to Index you help us to protect freedom of expression and to support those who are denied that right.
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