New Zealand: TV presenter resigns over race row

A breakfast show anchor for Television New Zealand has resigned after being accused of racist behaviour. Paul Henry was shown laughing at the mispronunciation of the name of the Delhi Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, which should sound more like “Dixit” in English. The Indian government lodged a formal complaint, calling the presenter’s comments “racist and bigoted”. Henry had already been suspended over accusations of racism, after suggesting that Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, who is of Indo-Fijian descent, was not really a New Zealander. The television host said he was “astonished” and “dismayed” at the uproar his comments had caused.

Major new global free expression index sees UK ranking stumble across academic, digital and media freedom

A major new global ranking index tracking the state of free expression published today (Wednesday, 25 January) by Index on Censorship sees the UK ranked as only “partially open” in every key area measured.

In the overall rankings, the UK fell below countries including Australia, Israel, Costa Rica, Chile, Jamaica and Japan. European neighbours such as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Denmark also all rank higher than the UK.

The Index Index, developed by Index on Censorship and experts in machine learning and journalism at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), uses innovative machine learning techniques to map the free expression landscape across the globe, giving a country-by-country view of the state of free expression across academic, digital and media/press freedoms.

Key findings include:

  • The countries with the highest ranking (“open”) on the overall Index are clustered around western Europe and Australasia – Australia, Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.

  • The UK and USA join countries such as Botswana, Czechia, Greece, Moldova, Panama, Romania, South Africa and Tunisia ranked as “partially open”.

  • The poorest performing countries across all metrics, ranked as “closed”, are Bahrain, Belarus, Burma/Myanmar, China, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Laos, Nicaragua, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

  • Countries such as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates performed poorly in the Index Index but are embedded in key international mechanisms including G20 and the UN Security Council.

Ruth Anderson, Index on Censorship CEO, said:

“The launch of the new Index Index is a landmark moment in how we track freedom of expression in key areas across the world. Index on Censorship and the team at Liverpool John Moores University have developed a rankings system that provides a unique insight into the freedom of expression landscape in every country for which data is available.

“The findings of the pilot project are illuminating, surprising and concerning in equal measure. The United Kingdom ranking may well raise some eyebrows, though is not entirely unexpected. Index on Censorship’s recent work on issues as diverse as Chinese Communist Party influence in the art world through to the chilling effect of the UK Government’s Online Safety Bill all point to backward steps for a country that has long viewed itself as a bastion of freedom of expression.

“On a global scale, the Index Index shines a light once again on those countries such as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates with considerable influence on international bodies and mechanisms – but with barely any protections for freedom of expression across the digital, academic and media spheres.”

Nik Williams, Index on Censorship policy and campaigns officer, said:

“With global threats to free expression growing, developing an accurate country-by-country view of threats to academic, digital and media freedom is the first necessary step towards identifying what needs to change. With gaps in current data sets, it is hoped that future ‘Index Index’ rankings will have further country-level data that can be verified and shared with partners and policy-makers.

“As the ‘Index Index’ grows and develops beyond this pilot year, it will not only map threats to free expression but also where we need to focus our efforts to ensure that academics, artists, writers, journalists, campaigners and civil society do not suffer in silence.”

Steve Harrison, LJMU senior lecturer in journalism, said: 

“Journalists need credible and authoritative sources of information to counter the glut of dis-information and downright untruths which we’re being bombarded with these days. The Index Index is one such source, and LJMU is proud to have played our part in developing it.

“We hope it becomes a useful tool for journalists investigating censorship, as well as a learning resource for students. Journalism has been defined as providing information someone, somewhere wants suppressed – the Index Index goes some way to living up to that definition.”

Free expression in the news

Tell Europe’s leaders to stop mass surveillance #dontspyonme
Index on Censorship launches a petition calling on European Union Heads of Government to stop the US, UK and other governments from carrying out mass surveillance. We want to use public pressure to ensure Europe’s leaders put on the record their opposition to mass surveillance. They must place this issue firmly on the agenda for the next European Council Summit in October so action can be taken to stop this attack on the basic human right of free speech and privacy.
(Index on Censorship)

Party profile: The Pirate Party
The Pirate Party of Australia will be fielding eight Senate candidates at the upcoming federal election.
(World News Australia)

Teacher ‘should have faced trial’
An American kindergarten teacher, who was deported for having links with radical opposition groups, should have been put on trial, according to political societies.
(Gulf Daily News)

Popular China bloggers should ‘promote virtues’
Chinese Internet celebrities have been told to “promote virtues” by a leading official, state media said Sunday, after a singer sparked a free speech debate by venting about bombing government offices.

The Pirate Bay Launches Censorship-Dodging Web Browser
Notorious torrent-sharing site The Pirate Bay is 10 years old today, and they got you a little something. They launched PirateBrowser, a custom Firefox browser that skirts Internet censorship and lets you access the Pirate Bay from anywhere. We should at least send them a card or something.

Stand up for freedom of expression: Anand Patwardhan
Acclaimed documentary filmmaker AnandPatwardhan believes civil society groups in Gujarat must unite to defend the right to free expression, especially of oppressed sections.
(Times of India)

Freedom of Expression: Indians are Becoming Increasingly Intolerant
Instead of nurturing the spirit of debate, we have become aggressive, bigoted and abusive
(Forbes India)

Russia asked by IOC about gay propaganda law
Mr Rogge said in Moscow that Russian written reassurances over the Winter Olympics in Sochi needed clarification. “We don’t think it is a fundamental issue, more a translation issue.”
(Radio New Zealand)

Fear of offending betrays hard-won rights
When President Jacob Zuma and the ANC calls on “intellectuals” not to be “antagonistic”, it raises several questions, says Judith February and Richard Calland.
(St Kitts News)

Press Freedom and Freedom of Information Act
Press freedom and Freedom of Information Act are like two wings on which transparency, accountability and openness in government rises to the needs of democracy and good governance.
(St Kitts News)

The power of pictures
Swiss photographer Christian Lutz began a reportage on the International Christian Fellowship (ICF) more than two years ago after gaining explicit approval from the founder of the community, its managers and event organisers. But more than 20 legal complaints stopped the publication of Lutz’s book, In Jesus’ Name.
(Swiss Broadcasting Corporation)

‘Boobies,’ the courts and free speech
The courts must protect the rights of students to express themselves on social and political issues.
(Los Angeles Times)

Political signs are free speech, not a blight on suburban lawns
While many consider political signs ugly and annoying, they are free speech at its purest. In case after case, courts have struck down efforts to limit this most basic form of political speech. In 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in City of Ladue et al. v. Gilleo that curbs on political lawn signs were unconstitutional.

Previous Free Expression in the News posts
Aug 9 |Aug 7 | Aug 6 | Aug 5 | Aug 2 | Aug 1 | July 31 | July 30 | July 29 | July 26 | July 25 | July 24 | July 23 | July 22 | July 19 | July 18 | July 17

Free expression in the news

Tell Europe’s leaders to stop mass surveillance #dontspyonme
Index on Censorship launches a petition calling on European Union Heads of Government to stop the US, UK and other governments from carrying out mass surveillance. We want to use public pressure to ensure Europe’s leaders put on the record their opposition to mass surveillance. They must place this issue firmly on the agenda for the next European Council Summit in October so action can be taken to stop this attack on the basic human right of free speech and privacy.
(Index on Censorship)

Hollywood Skeptical as China Claims Relaxed Censorship Enforcement
To many in China and Hollywood, the message seemed too good to be true: In an announcement on its official online portal July 17, the Chinese government stated that its State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television no longer will demand that filmmakers working on projects about “ordinary topics” secure full script approval before going into production.
(The Hollywood Reporter)

The birth of India’s film industry: how the movies came to Mumbai
There is a fascinating but little-known prequel to Indian cinema that goes right back to silent films made in the 1890s
(The Guardian)

Tim Cook: iPhone sales in India grew 400 percent last quarter
Apple CEO, Tim Cook, today announced iPhone sales in India grew over 400 percent in the last quarter over the quarter preceding it. Apart from India, iPhone sales took off in the Philippines, Turkey and Poland in the prepaid market apart from developed countries. Apple attributes it to some moves it made in the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4 space, pointing out towards the aggressive buyback schemes it launched in India with the iPhone 4.
(The Tech Gadgets)

Maniac Faces More Censorship Overseas
now being banned in New Zealand. Of course, the mainstream press is latching onto the fact that this is significant considering Maniac star Elijah Wood starred as Frodo in The Lord of the Rings films…which were all shot in New Zealand.
(Shock Till You Drop)

Navalny, Ward, Assange, Snowden and the Attack on Free Speech
Russia does not have a functioning criminal justice system at all, in the sense of a trial mechanism aimed at determining innocence or guilt. Exactly as in Uzbekistan, the conviction rate in criminal trials is over 99%. If the prosecutors, who are inextricably an arm of the executive government, want to send you to jail, there is absolutely no judicial system to protect you. The judges are purely there for show.
(Craig Murray)

Russia legal experts warn constitutional order under threat
Russia’s constitutional order is being threatened by the current government practices, according to an open letter [text, in Russian] signed by more than 50 of Russia’s leading legal experts on Tuesday. The letter accuses the government [CSM report] of systematic rights abuses and efforts to silence political opponents and eliminate forms of legal protest.

Journalist Miriam Elder Reflects on her Past Seven Years in Russia
The Guardian’s former Russian Correspondent Miriam Elder has left Russia for a new job in the US as Foreign Editor at BuzzFeed. Anchor Carol Hills speaks with Elder about her experiences reporting in Russia.
(Public Radio International (US))

LGBT Organization Calls For Boycott of Russian Vodka
A gay rights organization based in the U.S. has called for a worldwide boycott on Russian vodka in response to the country’s new gay propaganda legislation.
(The Moscow Times)

Russian Church Leaders Say Gays And Same-Sex Marriage Will Cause The Apocalypse!
Everyone! Run for your lives! It’s the Apocalypse! And it’s all the gays’ fault! As CAH-RAZY as that might sound, Russian church leader Patriarch Kirill believes every word of it.
(Perez Hilton)

Russia for Beginners: A Literary Course for Edward Snowden
Edward J. Snowden has the time, and now he has the classics. Mr. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor facing legal repercussions for the release of classified information, has been ensconced in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport waiting to find out if he will be granted asylum.
(The New York Times)

Tunisia In Chaos After Slaying Of Second Opposition Politician
Tunisia is heralded as the birthplace of the Arab Spring.
(Public Radio International (US))

Turkey’s media: A polluted landscape
As protests continue in Istanbul, journalist Yavuz Baydar calls for the media to resist government pressure to filter the news
(Index on Censorship)

Yavuz Baydar sacked after columns criticising government
Journalist Yavuz Baydar has been fired by Turkish daily newspaper Sabah, after articles he wrote criticising the government were censored
(Index on Censorship)

The Perceived Conflict Between Diversity and Free Speech
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has made headlines after releasing a “blueprint” for campus sexual misconduct policies that broadly redefines sexual harassment, ostensibly under OCR’s authority to enforce Title IX.

“Military Web Restrictions to Continue as Republican Led House Panel Passes on Amendment”
The House Rules Committee passed on an amendment that would have stopped the military from filtering news websites on its bases.
(Always Question Authority)

Previous Free Expression in the News posts
July 25 | July 24 | July 23 | July 22 | July 19 | July 18 | July 17 | July 16 | July 15 | July 12 | July 11 | July 10 | July 9 | July 8