As Russia wages war, Index reflects on its beginnings
Sir Trevor Phillips and Jonathan Dimbleby discussed the challenges to freedom of expression at our 50th birthday party
01 Apr 22

Sir Trevor Phillips and Jonathan Dimbleby. Photo: Mark Frary

Sir Trevor Phillips and Jonathan Dimbleby. Photo: Mark Frary

First I need to apologise, I should have written this blog last month but events in Ukraine have dominated all of our thoughts. But honestly the Russian invasion has caused the team at Index to not just react to the ongoing war but also think a great deal about our heritage and the similarities between events today and those that led to our founding.

For avid followers of our work it shouldn’t surprise you that the Index family have been delving into our history in recent months. Although we were launched as a British charity in 1971, the first edition of our award winning magazine wasn’t published until 1972. So on Tuesday March 15th we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first publication of Index on Censorship magazine. And launched our souvenir edition of the magazine – reflecting on the last 50 years as well as looking forward to the new challenges we face.

Given the collective horrors of Covid-19 and Ukraine it was actually a joy to be able to come together. There was birthday cake, the odd glass of fizz and genuinely wonderful conversations with the people who collectively built our organisation. Conversations about our history and Index’s contribution to media, academic and artist freedom around the world during our half century dominated the chat. The extended Index family has made so many contributions to the society we cherish, protecting the core human right of free expression. From campaigning against libel tourism and SLAPPs to publishing the work of some of the most important dissidents of the last five decades.

The highlight of our birthday party was listening to our current Chair, Sir Trevor Phillips, discuss the historic and current challenges to freedom of expression around the world with our former Chair, Jonathan Dimbleby. Their collective contribution to media and academic freedoms are numerous and have been vital to protect these most basic of freedoms both in the UK and further afield.

In the midst of a war on European soil and the likely beginnings of a new Cold War, being able to reflect on our beginnings was both timely and heartbreaking. In the months ahead the professional staff at Index will again be refocusing our work on the areas that led to our founding from Ukraine to Belarus, Russia to China. We never stopped providing a platform for the persecuted in each of these countries but our work will need a renewed focus as we strive to make sure that those being persecuted by increasingly repressive regimes have a voice.

If you are interested in our history, you will want to read the 50th anniversary of our magazine.

By Ruth Anderson

CEO at Index On Censorship