This week at Index: Censorship won't lead to a more equitable society
30 Aug 2019

Friday 30 August 2019
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Censorship cannot create a more equal society

Proposals to address so-called hate groups put forward by the Tony Blair Institute risk damaging freedom of speech in the UK, Index on Censorship warned.

“You do not create more equal societies through censorship and the growing enthusiasm for shutting down other people’s speech in a misguided belief this promotes greater tolerance is depressing. Hatred needs to be addressed – but banning people from expressing hateful views is not the way to do this,” Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index, said.

The institute proposed the creation of a new designation the government would use to differentiate between legitimate criticism and commentary on “Islamist extremism or white supremacy” and the “indiscrimate targeting of a group to foster hatred”. Groups that were tagged with the new designation, the institute imagines, “would be banned from appearing on media outlets like the BBC or engaging with public institutions.”

Ginsberg said: “The government already has legislation it can use to tackle those who deliberately stir up racial and religious hatred, and in particular laws that address incitement to violence. We do not need new laws – we need better enforcement of the ones we have. Governments have for decades tried – and failed – to find a way of defining extremist language in a way that would not end up simply scooping up vast swathes of legal political speech. Proposals to give the government greater powers to define and outlaw new kinds of speech simply open the door to more and more state censorship of speech.”  

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Index is seeking applicants for its Free Speech Is For Me advocates program. The aim is to equip a broad new range of individuals to challenge censorship, defend speech rights and champion freedom of expression for all. Find out more


China seeks to influence academic freedom on foreign campuses

“Students in the United States must be free to express their views, without feeling pressured to censor their speech…We can and will push back hard against the Chinese government’s efforts to chill free speech on American campuses.” This is what Marie Royce, US assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, said in her address welcoming Chinese students to American universities in July 2019. 

As much a warning as a welcome, the speech illustrates the balancing act America and other western countries often perform when engaging with Chinese people and organisations on campus. The presence of the Chinese Communist Party on campuses severely limits the free expression of Chinese students, and threatens more broadly to curtail academic freedom, the right to protest, and the ability to engage with the uncomfortable truths about the Chinese government honestly. 

Cases against Academics for Peace have become emblematic of the attacks on freedom of expression in Turkey

On 26 July 2019, Turkey’s highest court brought new hope to Turkish academics when it ruled that ten educators who had signed the petition “We will not be a Party to This Crime!” (Bu Suça Ortak Olmayacağız) had been tried unfairly and in violation of their rights. We speak to a Turkish academic working in the UK about what the ruling means.


Short fiction by Eman Abdelrahim

Laugh and the World Laughs with Me

Laugh and the World Laughs with Me is an intimate short story of a young woman who has a schizophrenic brother, set against the backdrop of the Tahrir Square demonstrations, from Egyptian writer Eman Abdelrahim. Many of her tales often touch upon taboo subjects like mental health and presents women’s dilemmas in surreal ways. Her main influences when writing stems from Russian greats like Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol and Fyodor Dostoevsky. She says she sees parallels between Egyptian society today and 19th century Tsarist Russia.

Don't Miss
Autumn magazine launch party at the Science Museum
We’re launching our latest Index on Censorship magazine at the Science Museum during Banned Books Week UK, as part of their Top Secret Lates on Wednesday 25 September. This is a chance for an adults only, after-hours visit to the museum, exploring all things secret, from codebreaking to secret communications.


Book Now
Creative constraints, banned books and The Testaments

As summer 2019 drifts toward the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, we wanted to get on your radar to tell you about the exciting series of events we have planned for September. Here's just a few of the full slate

Saturday 7 September
The paradox of creative constraints
We'll be participating in a day-long symposium hosted in partnership with The Mosaic Rooms exploring the paradox of creative constraints in contemporary cinema from the Middle East – a day of film screenings and panel discussions with filmmakers, funders and programmers, including some of the most innovative rising talents as well as established experts. £6.50 tickets include lunch and refreshments

Culture Under Attack
Wrapping up a  series of summer exhibitions at the Imperial War Museum, this day-long event be a mixture of panel sessions, a film screening, behind-the-scenes museums tours, and a pop-up book shop, where we look at the power of culture and the role it plays within conflict throughout history. Speakers include Elif Shafak, Lemn Sissay, Lindsey Hilsum and Tim Marlow. Tickets from £20

Monday/Tuesday 9-10 September
The Testaments launch parties
Celebrate the UK launch of The Testaments, the long-awaited sequel to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, with midnight parties and a lantern-lit parade at these independent bookshops.


Tuesday 17 September
Artistic freedom and the internet: Opportunity or threat?
A one-day workshop for UK-based artists, arts organisations and cultural stakeholders. The internet offers artists and arts organisations direct access to a potentially global audience for their work. What was the preserve of relatively few internationally-known artists and cultural institutions is now in theory open to anyone who can promote their work effectively online. But this unprecedented opportunity can present its own challenge. The volume and intensity of censure has been transformed and something new is in play – the direct targeting of organisations and people online, from campaigns calling for the withdrawal of work, to trolling and even threats of violence. Full details.

We've got a full list of events for September 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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