ISSUE: VOLUME 51.04 WINTER 2022 EXTRAS
Crown confidential: How Britain's royals censor their records
The message of one of our founders, Stephen Spender, was that Index wouldn’t be doing a good job if it didn’t keep an eye on attacks to free expression that happen on home soil. With this in mind and with the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II putting the UK under increased global scrutiny, we spoke to the royal historian Andrew Lownie. He told us about his battle to access archives on the Mountbattens, part of the British royal family’s inner circle. While Lownie was ultimately successful, but at great personal cost, he told us the files he struggled to access were just some of hundreds that are denied the British public for no good reason.
We decided to look into this censorship of British royal history, and the results of our special report are eye-opening. The number of historic files on the Royal Family which are unavailable, and the absurdity of the reasons for denying access to some of them, is staggering. Many historians and journalists are unable to carry out their work as a result. In one instance an entire book was dropped because of lack of access. We end the year with a simple request: to end this culture of secrecy by opening up official archives related to the Royal Family.
Beyond our special report, we interview the Ukrainian author and 2022 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards winner Andrey Kurkov; Vandana Shiva tells us how the control of seeds silences farmers in India; and Kaya Genç looks at how the Turkish government has waged a convenient war on ‘misinformation’ ahead of next year’s general elections.