Glasgow School of Art bans student’s controversial artwork


The flyer for master’s student James Oberhelm’s banned artwork “Effects” [The Enthronement]

The internationally famous Glasgow School of Art has censored an artwork by one of its students in what is claimed to be the first time in the history of its master’s course.

The work by fine art student James Oberhelm is not being shown in full, but visitors to the exhibition in the art college are told by a flier that the rest of the exhibit has been censored.

The college, whose famous alumni include Peter Capaldi, Liz Lochhead and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, says the ban was in place because of concerns about its “inappropriate content”.

“Effects” [The Enthronement], which was scheduled for exhibition during the first day of Glasgow School of Art’s Interim Show this month, deals with the geopolitics of the Middle East, specifically the century between the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, in which between Britain and France redrew the map of the Middle East, and now.

It was to include a video monitor playing two propaganda videos issues by Isis in 2014: one, entitled The End of Sykes-Picot, shows the destruction of part of the border between Iraq and Syria following the organisation’s capture of territories; the other, Kaser al Hudud, depicts bulldozers destroying the earthen wall along the same border.

A spokesperson for The Glasgow School of Art said: “We deemed the filmic material to be inappropriate for public display as we were concerned that the student’s use and distribution of that material could present an unacceptable risk for the student and the GSA.”

Oberhelm believes that this is the first time in the history of the Glasgow School of Art’s master’s course that such an instance of censorship has occurred, although a representative from the course was unavailable to confirm this. In another instance, a work was deemed too pornographic was granted a separate exhibition space with a disclaimer, Oberhelm said.

“The decision to censor appears to prioritise narrow political considerations over Glasgow School of Art’s own duties and interests: supporting artists in their responsibility to engage with the visual culture of our times, and to participate in meaningful dialogue with the society they are part of,” Oberhelm said in a press release.

A freedom of information request was made to the Glasgow School of Art, requesting: “all correspondence, information or documents held by the GSA regarding the decision to remove the piece…as well as the grounds for its removal.” The school has guaranteed a response no later than 6 June.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1499266681383-29c4ff48-ceee-4″ taxonomies=”8321, 9050, 8401, 9052, 6839, 8964″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Syria: Index condemns murder of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently journalist

Ahmed Mohamed al-Mousa

Ahmed Mohamed al-Mousa

Index on Censorship strongly condemns the murder of Ahmed Mohamed al-Mousa, a member of the news website and campaigning organisation Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS).

A non-partisan and independent media collective who report on atrocities perpetrated against the civilian population of Raqqa, the group collected an international press freedom award just last month for their work. Al-Mousa was assassinated by a group of unknown masked men on the same day as Index announced his organisation had been long-listed for Index on Censorship’s 2016 Freedom of Expression Awards.

“In their brave pursuit of the truth and their remarkable commitment to the people of Raqqa, RBSS are shining examples to us all. An idea cannot be lost to violence and intimidation and we stand side-by-side with RBSS and its courageous citizen journalists in their refusal to be silenced,” said Index CEO Jodie Ginsberg.

RBSS affiliates are persistently threatened and al-Mousa is the third journalist affiliated with RBSS who has been murdered by Islamic State militants this year.

In October 2015, journalist Ibrahim Abd al-Qader was killed alongside Fares Hamadi in Urfa, southeastern Turkey with a video since surfacing that claims they were murdered to warn all “apostates [that] they will be slaughtered silently”.

France’s state of emergency poses threat to press freedom


Editorial Credit: Frederic Legrand – COMEO /

Even before the attacks on Paris on 13 November were over, French President Francois Hollande declared a nationwide state of emergency giving authorities additional powers in the name of protecting citizens and combatting terrorism. But since the attacks, concerns have been raised for press freedom prompted by the cancellation of a regular radio segment by journalist Thomas Guénolé.

A few days after the events of 13 November, Guénolé devoted his daily morning commentary piece on RMC radio to what he perceived as the failings of the French security services and police. On the same day, the Interior Ministry called Philippe Antoine, RMC managing editor, to demand the radio station air a corrective to points Guénolé discussed during his segment, which the ministry would pen. “Interestingly, the corrective was not going to appear as a corrective emanating from the Interior Ministry but as the correction of an inaccurate information emanating from RMC,” Guénolé told me.

The proposed corrections were in relation to Guénolé’s discussion of claims reported by various news outlets, including that France had known since August 2015 that IS planned to attack a rock concert in France and that Turkish authorities had warned France twice this year about Omar Ismaïl Mostefaï, one of the assailants of the Bataclan massacre.

Guénolé called for a parliamentary investigation which should, if these claims were true, prompt the resignation of the highest ranking French officials, including Bernard Cazeneuve, France’s Minister of the Interior.

Guénolé also repeated information published by La Lettre A, which claimed only three out of 50 members of the Parisian Brigade de recherche et d’intervention (an anti-gang unit, which is to intervene in hostage situations) had been on duty after 8pm on the night of the attacks. On 19 November, the special adviser to France’s interior minister, Marie-Emmanuelle Assidon, took to Twitter to say the information contained in La Lettre A was false but recognised she had not read the article. “[N]o one but Thomas Guénolé trusts your info,” she added in her tweet.

“I have repeatedly asked Place Beauvau for a denial,” Marion Deye, editor at La Lettre A, told me. “I haven’t had one.” Neither have Le Monde or the AFP, also quoted by Guénolé.

“We published a very factual piece of news on the Monday following the attacks, at a time when any type of criticism was not welcome,” Daye said. “However, what we published was not a criticism, just a report. The most absurd thing in this whole story is that no one knows what Place Beauvau denied when they spoke to RMC. I think what was really problematic for some was that Guénolé brought up the resignation of Cazeneuve.”

On Friday 20 November, Guénolé was informed that his daily column was cancelled. In an email, the RMC managing editor wrote: “The Interior Ministry and all the police services invited on air have refused to appear on RMC because of inaccuracies in your column. Most sources of our police specialists have gone silent since Tuesday, putting in jeopardy the work that our editorial team does to find and verify information.”

Guénolé described the actions against him as both a “boycott” and an “embargo”.

“One would expect a media outlet to back up its journalist and not to have too strong a dependency vis-à-vis institutions,” he said. “My particular case doesn’t matter so much. What is unacceptable is that the Interior Ministry seems to have pressured RMC because they were displeased with what a journalist said on air in the context of the state of emergency.”

The firing of Guénolé happened on the on the same day the Assemblée Nationale voted to extend the state of emergency from 12 days to three months. Measures to control the press were initially proposed by 20 socialist MPs led by Sandrine Mazetier on the basis that the coverage of the January 2015 attacks in Paris – especially by news channel BFM-TV – had endangered the life of hostages who were hiding in a Hyper Casher supermarket. Such a measure would be highly problematic. As Mathieu Magnaudeix, a journalist with the investigative website Mediapart, put it to me: “If we were to end up with an authoritarian power, which by now doesn’t seem to be out of the question, what could they do with a law that allows the control of the press?”

Thankfully, the press control measures were later dismissed and it was made clear that even Hollande was strongly opposed. Regardless, it is apparent journalists still aren’t safe.

The proposed law does, however, extend and harden house arrests that are allowed under a state of emergency, enables members of the police force to carry their weapons while off duty, gives stronger powers to the authorities to carry police searches that are not approved by a judge. While these cannot be carried out in the workplace, police searches can take place at the house of an MP, lawyer, a judge or a journalist.

This kind of anti-terror legislation, as we have seen in the UK, could have further negative consequences for journalists covering terrorism.


Mapping Media Freedom


Click on the bubbles to view reports or double-click to zoom in on specific regions. The full site can be accessed at

How free is the media in Turkey?

Media freedom has declined considerably during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tenure, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

A recent report by the EU criticises Erdogan for the country’s “significant backsliding” on freedom of expression. “Ongoing and new criminal cases against journalists, writers or social media users, intimidation of journalists and media outlets as well as the authorities’ actions curtailing freedom of media are of considerable concern,” the report states.

Index on Censorship is deeply concerned with the situation in Turkey and participated in an emergency press freedom mission organised by the International Press Institute with a broad coalition of international free expression and media freedom groups before the Turkish elections on 1 November.

Our Mapping Media Freedom project, which identifies threats, violations and limitations faced by members of the press throughout the European Union, candidate states and neighbouring countries, has recorded 164 verified incidents in Turkey since May 2014. The country has consistently come top of our list for media violations.

The days leading up to and following the election were marred by further crackdowns on press freedoms. Here are just five examples from the last two weeks.


1. Magazine editors arrested over front cover


The Turkish government arrested two journalists on 3 November over claims they promoted an uprising against the state. Editor-in-chief Cevher Guven and news editor Murat Capan of the left-leaning political weekly Nokta, known for its criticism of the government, face charges after the magazine’s latest issue suggested that the aftermath of the election would spell the beginning of unrest in Turkey.

Nokta’s cover featured a doctored selfie of a smiling Erdogan, with the coffin of a soldier – a reference to comments by the president that families of soldiers killed by Kurdish rebels could be happy that their loved ones died as martyrs. The cover hints that the post-election period would signal “the start of Turkey’s civil war”. Nokta has been removed from the shelves and access to its website blocked. Many see the move as further proof of Erdogan’s determination to root out opposition media.


2. Syrian journalists murdered by Islamic State

Journalists in Turkey don’t just face threats from the authorities, but from Islamist extremists operating the country as well. On 30 October, Mapping Media Freedom reported that Syrian citizen-journalist Ibrahim Abd al-Qader had been murdered in the city of Sanliurfa at the home of fellow Syrian Fares Hammadi. Both were activists in Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), a group of activists using social media to document atrocities committed by Islamic State in Raqqa, Syria, which, since January 2014, has been the capital of the militant group.

Both men had been shot in the head and beheaded. ISIS took to social media to boast about the murder, posting a picture of the friends with the caption: “A selfie before being slaughtered silently.” Several suspects were arrested, but are the Turkish authorities really doing enough to protect the rights of journalists?


3. Police storm offices of independent media group

Just a few days ahead of the election, at around 4.45am on 28 October, police with chainsaws smashed through the front doors of Koza İpek Holding and took broadcasters Bugün and Kanaltürk off the air. The incident was captured on live television. After interrupting the broadcasts, riot police arrived and issued a public service announcement on air. Bügun and Kanaltürk then continued to broadcast for several hours, going against the police order.

Police then evacuated the editorial offices and attacked journalists. Bugün reporter Kamil Maman was assaulted, taken to a hospital for examination and then arrested.

Koza İpek is linked to Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish preacher living in exile in the US. Tensions between Gulen and Erdogan, a former ally, have worsened over recent years.


4. 71 journalists lose their jobs

Since the police raid, 71 journalists have been dismissed from İpek Media by a new group of trustees. The media group was unlawfully seized in a government-led police operation in late October which assigned new trustees to the board. Two of the media workers dismissed — Bugün daily news desk editor Bülent Ceyhan and reporter Kamil Maman — say they were forced to go on compulsory leave for several days and are now denied access to the building.

According to the Today’s Zaman, an English-language daily based in Turkey: “Despite the fact that the trustees had no authority to fire any worker, the editors-in-chief and general managers of the TV channels were told they were sacked. […] Some of the decisions to fire staff were made on a public holiday, an act which is against the law.”


5. Police attempt to arrest journalist during protest

On 6 November, a reporter for the independent Turkish press agency Bianet, Beyza Kural, was covering a public protest when police attempted to detain and handcuff her in Beyazit, Istanbul. Students had gathered in front of Istanbul University to protest Erdogan’s control over education.

Police officers tried to seize the memory card from Kural’s camera and shouted, “from now on nothing will be like before, we will teach you”  — allegedly referring to the election results and Erdogan’s renewed authority. Police officers also assaulted students while firing rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the demonstration. Kural only escaped arrest due to the intervention of fellow journalists and protesters.


Mapping Media Freedom

Click on the bubbles to view reports or double-click to zoom in on specific regions. The full site can be accessed at