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50 years of Index on Censorship

Half a century ago a vision for a tangible form of solidarity with Soviet dissidents became a reality.

On 25 March 1971, at the height of the Cold War and after several years of planning, a new charity was formed, Writers and Scholars Educational Trust and our deeds were finally signed.

Our core charitable purpose was the advancement and promotion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a focus on Article 19.  We were to provide a voice for the persecuted.

Our magazine, Index on Censorship, was to be the charity’s main output, providing a platform for dissidents to tell their stories, for our correspondents to shine a spotlight on repressive regimes and to establish a global vehicle, campaigning for the right to free expression for writers, scholars and artists.

While many extraordinary individuals have been part of our story – it was four people who on that chilly Thursday came together to make us legal – starting our journey: Elizabeth Longford, Stuart Hampshire, Stephen Spender and Peter Calvocoressi.  They are our founders – and we want to share with you a little about these amazing people.

I hope that over the last 50 years we have lived up to their aspirations.  I think we have – but there is so much work still to be done.

Ruth Smeeth, CEO, Index on Censorship

Stephen Spender

Stephen Spender

British poet, essayist and human rights advocate

Elizabeth Longford

Elizabeth Longford

Biographer of the Queen and Queen Mother and head of a dynasty of writers

Stuart Hampshire

Stuart Hampshire

Philosopher and author of the acclaimed book Thought and Action

Peter Calvocoressi

Peter Calvocoressi

Wartime codebreaker, historian and publisher

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