Contents – Express yourself: Overcoming neurodiversity stereotypes


The Summer 2023 issue of Index looks at neurodiversity, the term coined in the late 1990s to identify and promote the positives of variation in human thinking which has become more widely used in the past few years. Are old stereotypes still rife? Has the perception of neurodiversity improved? If not, was this because of censorship? Using neurodivergent voices, we wanted to know about this in a global context.

The majority of the articles are written by neurodivergent people, as we wanted to put their voices front and centre. Many said they did have more of a voice, awareness had shot up and the word “neurodiversity” empowered and welcomed a growth in onscreen representation. However, at the same time it was clear that conversations around neurodiversity were playing out along society’s current fault-lines and were far from immune.

Up Front

Mind matters, by Jemimah Seinfeld: The term neurodiversity has positively challenged how we approach our minds. Has it done enough?

The Index, by Mark Frary: The latest in free expression news, from an explainer on Sudan to a cha-cha-cha starring Meghan and King Charles.


Bars can't stop a bestseller, by Kaya Genç: Fiction is finding its way out of a Turkish prison, says former presidential hopeful and bestselling writer
Selahattin Demirtaş.

Don't mention femicide, by Chris Havler-Barrett: Murdered women are an inconvenience for Mexico’s president.

This is no joke, by Qian Gong and Jian Xu: The treatment of China’s comedians is no laughing matter.

Silent Disco, by Andrew Mambondiyani: Politicians are purging playlists in Zimbabwe, and musicians are speaking out.

When the Russians came, by Alina Smutko, Taras Ibragimov and Aliona Savchuk: The view from inside occupied Crimea, through the cameras of photographers banned by the Kremlin.

The language of war and peace, by JP O’Malley: Kremlin-declared “Russophobe foreign agent and traitor” Mikhail Shishkin lays out the impossible choices for Russians.

Writer's block, by Stacey Tsui: Hong Kong’s journalists are making themselves heard, thanks to blockchain technology.

The Russians risking it all, by Katie Dancey-Downs: Forced to sing songs and labelled as extremists, anti-war Russians are finding creative ways to take a stand.

The 'truth' is in the tea, by Jemimah Steinfeld: Spilling the tea on a London venue, which found itself in hot water due to a far-right speaker.

Waiting for China's tap on the shoulder, by Chu Yang: However far they travel, there’s no safe haven for journalists and academics who criticise China.

When the old fox walks the tightrope, by Danson Kahyana: An interview with Stella Nyanzi on Uganda’s latest anti-LGBTQ+ law.

Would the media lie to you?, by Ali Latifi: Fake news is flourishing in Afghanistan, in ways people might not expect.

Britain's Holocaust island, by Martin Bright: Confronting Britain’s painful secret, and why we must acknowledge what happened on Nazi-occupied Alderney.

The thorn in Vietnam's civil society side, by Thiện Việt: Thiện Việt: Responding to mass suppression with well-organised disruption.

Special Report: Express yoruself: Overcoming neurodiversity stereotypes

Not a slur, by Nick Ransom: What’s in a word? Exploring representation, and the power of the term “neurodiversity” to divide or unite.

Sit down, shut up, by Katharine P Beals: The speech of autistic non-speakers is being hijacked.

Fake it till you break it, by Morgan Barbour: Social media influencers are putting dissociative identity disorder in the spotlight, but some are accused of faking it.

Weaponising difference, by Simone Dias Marques: Ableist slurs in Brazil are equating neurodivergence with criminality.

Autism on screen is gonna be okay, by Katie Dancey-Downs: The Rain Man days are over. Everything’s Gonna Be Okay star Lillian Carrier digs into autism on screen.

Raising Malaysia's roof, by Francis Clarke: In a comedy club in Malaysia’s capital stand up is where people open up, says comedian Juliana Heng.

Living in the Shadows, by Ashley Gjøvik: When successful camouflage has a lasting impact.

Nigeria's crucible, by Ugonna-Ora Owoh: Between silence and lack of understanding, Nigeria’s neurodiverse are being mistreated.

My autism is not a lie, by Meltem Arikan: An autism diagnosis at 52 liberated a dissident playwright, but there’s no space for her truth in Turkey.


Lived experience, to a point, by Julian Baggini: When it comes to cultural debates, whose expertise carries the most weight?

France: On the road to illiberalism? by Jean-Paul Marthoz: Waving au revoir to the right to criticise.

Monitoring terrorists, gangs - and historians, by Andrew Lownie: The researcher topping the watchlist on his majesty’s secret service.

We are all dissidents, by Ruth Anderson: Calls to disassociate from certain dissidents due to their country of birth are toxic and must be challenged.


Manuscripts don't burn, by Rebecca Ruth Gould: Honouring the writers silenced by execution in Georgia, and unmuzzling their voices.

Obscenely familiar, by Marc Nash: A book arguing for legalised homosexuality is the spark for a fiction rooted in true events.

A truly graphic tale, by Taha Siddiqui and Zofeen T Ebrahim: A new graphic novel lays bare life on Pakistan’s kill list, finding atheism and a blasphemous tattoo.

A censored day? by Kaya Genç: Unravelling the questions that plague the censor, in a new short story from the Turkish author.

Poetry's peacebuilding tentacles, by Natasha Tripney: Literature has proven its powers of peace over the last decade in Kosovo.

Palestine: I still have hope, by Bassem Eid: Turning to Israel and Palestine, where an activist believes the international community is complicit in the conflict.

Death of a storyteller

They shot the children’s poet in the head. Two bullets from a Makharov, the Russian army handgun, his grave identified, his voice stilled. Until, that is, Victoria Amelina turned up at the Izium home of the murdered poet, Volodymyr Vakulenko. Gentle, calm, dogged, Victoria had stopped work as a novelist to become a war crimes investigator, her mission to listen to Ukraine’s bereaved: “That it is not like ‘this happened’ and nobody asks them about it.”

She found Vakulenko’s father, crushed by grief, and over the course of a long conversation, his memory unlocked and he said that his son had told him that he had buried his diary near the cherry tree in the family’s garden. They dug and dug.


And then Victoria, on impulse, opened up the earth a little distance from the tree and they found the dead poet’s diary, wrapped in water-proof plastic, breaking the silence. The diary told of Russian occupation, of a tank squatting outside in the street, the creeping sense of dread, his arrest, release – and then they came for him one last time. But not before he had buried his words by the cherry tree.

Victoria understood that the best stories are the ones that power and money do not want told. That was last year.

In late June Victoria was sitting outside on the terrace at the Ria pizza restaurant in Kramatorsk, about thirty miles from Bakhmut. The Ria is an institution, a sweet hiding hole where journalists, aid workers, soldiers and local families unwind from the horrors of the frontline. Driven by my fixer in Ukraine, Dima Kovalchuk, Victoria was escorting Colombian journalists, Héctor Abad, Sergio Jaramillo and Catalina Gómez around the war zone. Victoria was doing her best to shine a light on the Kremlin’s dark nonsense. Too many people in the global south have bought into the Russian lie but not these South Americans.

Dima told me: “the awning above is see-through and I saw a shadow overhead, it was the missile, then this intense explosion.”

Jaramillo explained to the Financial Times: “I was sitting right next to Victoria. We had just finished a day in the field, talking to people about the Russian invasion. As the food was brought to us, I bent down to pick up a napkin and, at that moment, the missile struck. Victoria, who had been sitting upright, was badly hit at the back of the neck… the whole room fell to pieces and time stopped.”

Dima said that Victoria never recovered from her head injury. The rest of the team were lightly injured. Thirteen people died, including two fourteen-year-old twins; fifty people were injured. Firing a cruise missile at a pizza restaurant packed with civilians was yet another Russian war crime.

Victoria was born in Lviv, moved to Canada when she was a teenager, worked in IT, got bored with that and became a full-time writer. Her first novel, Fall Syndrome, was about the Maidan revolution, her second, Dom’s Dream Kingdom, established her international reputation. She won the Joseph Conrad Literary Award and was short-listed for the European Union Prize for Literature. Before the big war she set up a literary festival in New York, a village not far from Bakhmut, and a second in Kramatorsk. Her poetry was spare and bleak:


Air-raid sirens across the country

It feels like everyone is brought out

For execution

But only one person gets targeted

Usually the one at the edge

This time not you; all clear

I met Victoria once, at a café in Kyiv, this spring. She recognised my silly orange hat and we talked about working together, one day, on a war crimes investigation but our schedules didn’t work out and that never happened. There was a still beauty about her spirit that is haunting, an echo from a friend, calling out the big lie.

I cannot believe they have silenced her.

I cannot believe that she is dead.

Seeking the real story of Prigozhin’s challenge to Putin

Last week’s mutiny by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the mercenary Wagner Group, provided a challenge to established western media outlets, such was the speed of the advance by the man known as Putin’s chef towards Moscow and the lack of verifiable information coming out of Russia. The subsequent accommodation between Prigozhin and Putin, apparently brokered by the Belarus leader Alyaksandr Lukashenska, has left even the most seasoned neo-Kremlinologists scratching their heads.

Step forward the Russian dissidents and independent news services. Index has been privileged to work with the opposition to Putin since long before the war in Ukraine and it was good to see them coming into their own last week. Here are some of our recommendations for those who want to stay abreast of the fast-moving and often baffling developments in Russia. Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock), the managing editor of the English-language version of the independent online site Meduza, kept his Twitter feed consistently updated during the coup-that-never-was. Where others were breathless and over-excited, Rothrock was calm and measured. His colleague Lilya Yapparova (@lilia_yapparova) provided detailed analysis on the future of Prigozhin from sources inside the Russian military and the Wagner Group itself. Yapparova’s far-reaching investigation looks into what Wagner forces might contribute to Belarusian military capacity and the organisation’s operations in Africa and Syria. She also looks into Wagner’s finances in Russia, its continued recruitment for the war in Ukraine and internet trolling operations. Yapporova quotes the work of Dossier Center, a media outlet connected to the British-based Putin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsksy, which tracks criminals associated with the Russian president. Khodorkovsky himself was active on his Telegram channel throughout the mutiny and accessible to non-Russian speakers through the messaging app’s translate function. Controversially he urged Russians to support Prigozhin's coup. His view was that anything would be better than Putin. The Russian billionaire later concluded that the outcome of Prigozhin’s operation was not important. “The very fact that this happened is a powerful blow to Putin after which he will be perceived differently by millions.”

Doxa, the publication founded by students opposed by Putin and now outlawed by the regime, continues to do a good job of aggregating news from reliable sources. This week it included a report from The Bell, founded by Russian financial journalist Elizaveta Osetinskaya, suggesting that Prigozhin’s troll factory companies have been paralysed following raids after the uprising and were looking for a new owner. Osetinskaya, a former editor of Russian Forbes magazine, was declared a foreign agent after condemning the invasion of Ukraine.

In a new development this week, Novaya Gazeta, the independent Russian news outlet whose editor Dmitry Muratov won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021, was put on the Kremlin’s list of “undesirable” organisations. This makes it a crime for the publication, now based in Latvia, to operate in Russia. It is also now illegal for Russians to engage with the publication or share its content online.

OVD-Info, the human rights project which won the 2022 Index on Censorship campaigning award, decided not to provide a running commentary of events and stuck to its mission of reporting on arrests of regime opponents. In his weekly newsletter Dan Storyev, English editor of OVD-Info, wrote: “Russia has had a busy few days as I am sure we all know. This newsletter is not for military analysis so I won’t cover Prigozhin’s manoeuvres here — but it’s important to remember, that in the end, it is going to be ordinary Russians, Russian civil society who would bear the brunt of any violence that a coup, or a paranoid preventive crackdown could unleash.”

If there is one thing that unites all the outlets mentioned here (beyond their undoubted courage), it is the care they take in the sourcing of all information they publish. In the post-truth world of Putin’s Russia, facts are precious commodities.

Contents – Modi’s India: The Age of Intolerance


The central theme of the Spring 2023 issue of Index is India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

After monitoring Modi’s rule since he was elected in 2014, Index decided to look deeper into the state of free expression inside the world’s largest democracy.

Index spoke to a number of journalists and authors from, or who live in, India; and discovered that on every marker of what a democracy should be, Modi’s India fails. The world is largely silent when it comes to Narendra Modi. Let’s change that.

Up Front

Can India survive more Modi?, by Jemimah Seinfeld: Nine years into his leadership the world has remained silent on Modi's failed democracy. It's time to turn up the temperature before it's too late.

The Index, by Mark Frary: The latest news from the free speech frontlines. Big impact elections, poignant words from the daughter of a jailed Tunisian opposition politician, and the potential US banning of Tik Tok.


Cultural amnesia in Cairo, by Nick Hilden: Artists are under attack in the Egyptian capital where signs of revolution are scrubbed from the street.

‘Crimea has turned into a concentration camp’, by Nariman Dzhelal: Exclusive essay from the leader of the Crimean Tatars, introduced by Ukranian author Andrey Kurkov.

Fighting information termination, by Jo-Ann Mort: How the USA's abortion information wars are being fought online.

A race to the bottom, by Simeon Tegel: Corruption is corroding the once-democratic Peru as people take to the streets.

When comics came out, by Sara Century: The landscape of expression that gave way to a new era of queer comics, and why the censors are still fighting back.

In Iran women’s bodies are the battleground, by Kamin Mohammadi: The recent protests, growing up in the Shah's Iran where women were told to de-robe, and the terrible u-turn after.

Face to face with Iran’s authorities, by Ramita Navai: The award-winning war correspondent tells Index's Mark Frary about the time she was detained in Tehran, what the current protests mean and her Homeland cameo.

Scope for truth, by Kaya Genç: The Turkish novelist visits a media organisation built on dissenting voices, just weeks before devastating earthquakes hit his homeland.

Ukraine’s media battleground, by Emily Couch: Two powerful examples of how fraught reporting on this country under siege has become.

Storytime is dragged into the guns row, by Francis Clarke: Relaxed gun laws and the rise of LGBTQ+ sentiment is silencing minority communities in the USA.

Those we must not leave behind, by Martin Bright: As the UK government has failed in its task to rescue Afghans, Index's editor at large speaks to members of a new Index network aiming to help those whose lives are in imminent danger.

Special Report: Modi's India

Modi’s singular vision for India, by Salil Tripathi: India used to be a country for everyone. Now it's only for Hindus - and uncritical ones at that.

Blessed are the persecuted, by Hanan Zaffar: As Christians face an increasing number of attacks in India, the journalist speaks to people who have been targeted.

India’s Great Firewall, by Aishwarya Jagani: The vision of a 'digital India' has simply been a way for the authoritarian government to cement its control.

Stomping on India’s rights, by Marnie Duke: The members of the RSS are synonymous with Modi. Who are they, and why are they so controversial?

Bollywood’s Code Orange, by Debasish Roy Chowdhury: The Bollywood movie powerhouse has gone from being celebrated to being used as a tool for propaganda.

Bulldozing freedom, by Bilal Ahmad Pandow: Narendra Modi's rule in Jammu and Kashmir has seen buildings dismantled in line with people's broader rights.

Let’s talk about sex, by Mehk Chakraborty: In a country where sexual violence is abundant and sex education is taboo, the journalist explores the politics of pleasure in India.

Uncle is watching, by Anindita Ghose: The journalist and author shines a spotlight on the vigilantes in India who try to control women.


Keep calm and let Confucius Institutes carry on, by Kerry Brown: Banning Confucius Institutes will do nothing to stop Chinese soft power. It'll just cripple our ability to understand the country.

A papal precaution, by Robin Vose: Censorship on campus and taking lessons from the Catholic Church's doomed index of banned works.

The democratic federation stands strong, by Ruth Anderson: Putin's assault on freedoms continues but so too does the bravery of those fighting him.


Left behind and with no voice, by Lijia Zhang and Jemimah Steinfeld: China's children are told to keep quiet. The culture of silence goes right the way up.

Zimbabwe’s nervous condition, by Tsitsi Dangarembga: The Zimbabwean filmmaker and author tells Index's Katie Dancey-Downes about her home country's upcoming election, being arrested for a simple protest and her most liberating writing experience yet.

Statues within a plinth of their life, by Marc Nash: Can you imagine a world without statues? And what might fill those empty plinths? The London-based novelist talks to  Index's Francis Clarke about his new short story, which creates exactly that.

Crimea’s feared dawn chorus, by Martin Bright: A new play takes audiences inside the homes and families of Crimean Tatars as they are rounded up.

From hijacker to media mogul, Soe Myint: The activist and journalist on keeping hope alive in Myanmar.