This week at Index: Free Speech Is For Me

Friday 23 August 2019

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Index is pleased to announce the opening of Free Speech Is For Me to applicants. The aim is to equip a broad new range of individuals to challenge censorship, defend speech rights and champion freedom of expression for all activists.

Free speech has been critical to social movements throughout history. Groups leverage their right to free speech to challenge those who are protecting the status quo. But lately many of the loudest voices demanding “free speech” seek to use it primarily to spread hate, leading many to question it as a value – and paving the way for a rise in demands for censorship.

“‘Free speech’ has become a dirty word in the last few years,” said Index on Censorship chief executive Jodie Ginsberg. “Free Speech Is For Me aims to show how freedom of expression furthers democracy and individual liberty, and benefits everyone. If we allow free speech protections to be weakened, we lose our greatest tool in advocating for change.”

Free Speech Is For Me will offer twelve places–six in the US and six in the UK. Selected applicants will receive one-on-one support from leading free speech experts, as well as media, communications and public speaking training. Participants will gain a clearer understanding of the challenges of censorship and the tools to overcome them, as well as how to best advocate for and use free speech principles within their communities and advocacy areas.

Find out more



A coalition of eight media freedom and journalists’ organisations are calling on Russian authorities to immediately stop the harassment of journalists who have been covering the recent protests in Moscow.

Since the electoral authorities rejected several opposition candidates for September’s city council elections, protesters have taken to the streets of Moscow on four consecutive Saturdays. Russian authorities have responded with threats, violence, and detentions.

Journalists who have been reporting on the protests have consistently been targeted. On 27 July 2019, two journalists suffered broken noses after being struck by police, one received injuries to his hands and head after being hit with a police baton, a fourth was beaten in a police van after his arrest, and a fifth received injuries from a police assault.

Jessica Ní Mhainín, policy research and advocacy officer at Index on Censorship said “Russian authorities seem to be indifferent to the fact that, by targeting protesters and journalists with violence and detentions, they are in flagrant violation of their obligations under international human rights law. But they should bear in mind that their response will only fan the flames of these pro-democracy protests. Journalists are the defenders of our democracy – without journalists and media freedom, there is no democracy”.

Also read



Syrian photographer documents destruction by walking tightrope

His absolute independence is what saved him in all the years that he stayed in Raqqa, the Syrian city where photographer Aboud Hamam was born and raised and that he refused to leave, even during the years that Isis was in charge. Under the current rule, he finally let go of his pseudonym for years, Nur Firat. “I miss Nur Firat sometimes,” Hamam said during a recent interview in Raqqa. “He achieved a lot.”


Free speech was being suppressed in Kashmir for a long time before the latest crisis

We report on the border region’s long-term crackdown on communications well before the latest news blackout. Rituparna Chatterjee, talked to academics and journalists about what it has been like to live there


Pakistan’s media forced into self-censorship

In the run-up to Pakistan’s 2018 elections, interference and censorship by the military establishment dramatically increased. Journalists have faced harassment and interference, pressure on media owners is common, and the government has taken to jamming the signals and interrupting the distribution of news it dislikes. At the same time, the media faces a growing lack of trust from the Pakistani public, and economic pressures have contributed to what some observers are calling an internal “crisis.”

22-28 September


Independent bookshops win competition to launch The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Independent bookshops across the country applied for a prize fund provided by Vintage, in partnership with Index on Censorship, to support the biggest and best idea to celebrate publication of The Testaments, the long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, published 10th September.

Vintage were particularly impressed by the entries from Red Lion Books and Rogan’s Books, who will divide the £750 fund equally.

Red Lion Books in Colchester will host a midnight launch for The Testaments on 9th September. They are inviting customers to submit personal and anonymous testaments of when they have experienced forms of prejudice. These testaments will be read by an actor. They will use the prize fund to create props, make bonnets and provide refreshments, as well as advertising the event on social media.

Rogan’s Books, a specialist independent feminist and children’s bookshop in Bedford, also plan a midnight launch for The Testaments on 9th September. They are arranging a lantern-lit parade of handmaids through Bedford, passing landmarks such as the Embankment, the river, the wall and the eerie Castle ruins. Just before midnight, the procession will arrive at Rogan’s Books to striking window displays, a reading from the first chapter and Handmaid’s Tale themed refreshments.

Banned Books Week / 22-28 Sept 2019

Banned Books Week UK is a nationwide campaign for radical readers and rebellious readers of all ages celebrate the freedom to read. Between 22 – 28 September 2019, bookshops, libraries, schools, literary festivals and publishers will be hosting events and making noise about some of the most sordid, subversive, sensational and taboo-busting books around.

Save the date
28 Sept:
 1984 at 70 – How has Orwell’s vision aged?
26 Sept: Banned Book Club at Foyles bookshop
26 Sept: Truly Uncensored? LGBTQ+ Young Adult Literature
23 Sept: John Osborne’s Under Plain Covers
23 Sept: Walled In: Writers consider walls in literature and in our lives
More events to be added soon



7 Sept / Symposium
The paradox of creative constraints

This public event will reflect on the paradox of creative constraints in contemporary cinema from the Middle East – a day of film screenings and panel discussions with filmmakers, funders and programmers, including some of the most innovative rising talents as well as established experts.

The symposium will offer new insights into filmmaking from the region, revitalising debates on cinematic creativity in sites of conflict and crisis in the Middle East and beyond.

Full details

Index on Censorship defends people’s freedom to express themselves without fear of harm or persecution. We publish censored writers and artists, monitor and campaign against censorship, and encourage debate.

We rely on donations from readers and supporters. By donating to Index you help us to protect freedom of expression and to support those who are denied that right.

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The post This week at Index: Free Speech Is For Me appeared first on Index on Censorship.