A twist in the tale of the man arrested for not smiling at the Olympics

Index on Censorship has not exactly been shy in its criticism of the control-freakish atmosphere of the Olympics. Nor have we held back criticisms of the misuse and abuse of the UK’s Public Order Act.

So you would have thought that the story of Mark Worsfold, allegedly arrested for looking a bit glum at the Olympic cycling road race would have been something we would have jumped on. Mr Worsfold, a martial arts instructor, has difficulty moving his facial muscles due to Parkinson’s disease.

But there seemed something not quite right about the national papers’ reporting of the whole thing — partly down to Worsfold’s own apparent hesitance to criticise the police — the local paper reported that despite his five hours in custody, Mr Worsfold was keen to see the “funny side” of the incident.

Over at Harry’s Place, blogger amie has an interesting take on what happened, claimed to be based on a chance meeting with Mark Worsfold’s brother at the Olympic Park in London. Amie says the following is Worsfold’s brother’s account of the arrest:

Mark had served in Northern Ireland and appreciates full well the stresses involved in assessing responses in tense situations. He was concerned that the newspaper reports (It was in the Guardian as well) were reflecting this as a case of police brutality which, if the full background were known, it would be apparent it was not.

The group of protesters near where he was standing were from Fathers 4 Justice [groan from my Family Law lecturer sister sitting alongside me]. To make matters worse, a woman protester next to him trying to join the other demonstrators and who was haranguing the police as imperialist lackeys, etc, looked as if she was with him.

“This is all going to kick off” he thought, and he needed to get to his daughter’s birthday. With that he jumped off the wall to leave. Bad move, worse timing, open to misinterpretation. When he was jumped on, he tried to say he had been to a Taekwondo demonstration and needed to get to his daughter. What the police heard, in the presumably noisy environment, (said the brother), was “demonstration” and “getting to his daughter” — a reasonable impression of a Father 4 justice with access issues.

He would be grateful if I could convey to others a more rounded perspective.

This version of events certainly doesn’t mean Mr Worsfold isn’t owed an apology, or that our Public Order Act is not misused ridiculously and sometimes disturbingly. But it’s useful, nevertheless, to put reporting of the exercise of Public Order powers in context.

Censorship, self-censorship and the Olympic spirit: Confusion over blocking of BBC content as Olympic rules kick in

Chilling free speech in the name of brands, rights and commercialisation is not what promoting the Olympic spirit is about, says Kirsty Hughes

This piece was originally published on Huffington Post UK

Friday’s opening of the Olympic Games, with the extraordinary spectacle created by Danny Boyle, ranging from the industrial revolution to the digital age, from children’s literature to the National Health Service, has received plaudits and praise along with some bemusement and criticism. It may be just as well though that it didn’t celebrate another British icon, the BBC.

The impact of the commercialisation of the Games, with lucrative sponsorship and rights deals, means another British virtue — freedom of speech — is rather less free than normal for the duration of London 2012. A particularly disturbing example of this is the BBC — which has said that due to rights restrictions various radio programmes, ranging from the prestigious Radio 4 Today news programme to the lighter Radio 2 Chris Evans’ Breakfast Show and Radio 5 Live, whether live or on iPlayer, may not be available to audiences abroad for the duration of the Games.

While the BBC World Service has a proud history of broadcasting into authoritarian regimes, faced with its lucrative rights deal for UK broadcasting of the Games, the BBC is blocking its own output from being available internationally. It has a helpfully succinct explanation of this on its own news site where it says: “The BBC’s agreement with the International Olympic Committee means we are not allowed to broadcast anything online outside the UK from the Olympic Park or Olympic venues. As a result this programme may need to be blanked for International listeners due to rights issues surrounding Olympic content in programmes.”

Perhaps conscious of quite how ludicrous this is, and damaging to the BBC’s own image and values, by Sunday the BBC had apparently carried out some damage-limitation negotiations with the International Olympic Committee so at least the Today programme could be restored to international listeners — though the announcement of this appears to be confined to a small blog update which states:

After discussion, the IOC and the BBC have agreed that there is no need to block our international streams of Radio 4 programmes with a wide news agenda. Radio 5 Live (apart from the news programme Up All Night) and 5 Live Olympics Extra will remain available only in the UK.

We knew that the Olympic commercial brands deals had put money ahead of free speech — Locog published months ago two lists of words that must not be combined at risk of legal action for breaching the brand/copyright rules. These include not combining the words “games”, “2012” or “twenty twelve” with, for example, “gold”, “silver” “medals”, “sponsor” or “summer”. But more examples keep coming in of the censorship effects, and the chilling of the right to peaceful protest.

Unauthorised YouTube videos of the Games are reportedly being taken down with alacrity. Meanwhile, a group of cyclists has been banned from cycling in Newham for the duration of the Games.

The Olympic charter celebrates a number of human rights, declaring that: “The practice of sport is a human right… Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” The charter makes no commitment to that other key and universal human right — freedom of expression. But chilling and censoring free speech in the name of brands, rights and general commercialisation is surely not quite what promoting the Olympic spirit is all about.

Kirsty Hughes is Chief Executive of Index on Censorship





LOCOG strikes again! Newsagent's Olympic bunting targeted

We really don’t want to go on about this…no, actually, lets.

After the Twitter censorship, the links policy fiasco, and the Box Hill newsletter ban, the organisers of the London Olympics have turned their attention to an east London newsagent who sought to celebrate the Olympics with bunting on his shop.

According to the Hackney Citizen, Hamdy Shahein, who runs Hamdy’s News in Stoke Newington, London, was visited by council enforcement officers on Saturday and told he had to remove his Olympic-themed bunting. It was reported that the Trading Standards Officers were even backed up by a police van!

Hamdy, who is popular and renowned in the neighbourhood for his refusal to stock porn magazines, was said to be shocked by the incident, particularly as he had paid for official bunting, so could not see how he could be in breach of any law.

Where will the Olympic copyright curse strike next? Tweet us @indexcensorship if you wake up to find yourself on the wrong side of LOCOG.

LOCOG bars sale of village magazine during Olympic cycling race

A village magazine has been barred from sale along the route of the 2012 Olympic cycling road race.

After the success of Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish in the Tour de France this year, thousands are expected to flock to Box Hill, a climb on the route of the road race, to cheer on British sport’s newest heroes. But local residents will not be allowed to sell their parish magazine, the Box Hill News, to the crowds.

According to the Leatherhead Advertiser, locals had planned an Olympic edition of their magazine, featuring an article by Keith Brock, a member of Great Britain’s 1948 London Olympic cycling team, with money raised going to charity.

But former editor June Austin says she was told that only official LOCOG sponsor merchandise would be allowed to be sold in the immediate vicinity of the race.

Ms Austin said:

“They said the whole area would be controlled by Locog so if you’re not an Olympic sponsor, you can’t sell anything there.

“It would have been such an opportunity to raise money for charities in the area and they’re missing out; all the money will go to the big companies.”


You have to wonder who’s running public relations for the London Olympic Games. While one can understand the need to protect commercial concerns, the games, which were sold to Londoners as inclusive, community-enhancing and all those nice things, are taking on the feel of an authoritarian imposition on peoples lives, rather than something to be celebrated.

More London 2012:


What?!? Now we’re not even allowed to link to the Olympics website?


Olympic organisers shut down “Space hijackers” protest Twitter account


In a league of its own


Plus read more on Sport v human rights in Index on Censorship magazine’s Sports issue