Tag Archives: Index on Censorship

Could Iceland’s journalism haven create a ‘ripple effect’?

Al Jazeera English’s Listening Post has an excellent film about the new Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI) proposal, which, if successful, could make Iceland an investigative journalism haven.

  • Read more about IMMI here: http://immi.is/?l=en: “The goal of the IMMI proposal is to task the government with finding ways to strengthen freedom of expression around world and in Iceland, as well as providing strong protections for sources and whistleblowers. To this end the legal environment should be explored in such a way that the goals can be defined, and changes to law or new law proposals can be prepared. The legal environments of other countries should be considered, with the purpose of assembling the best laws to make Iceland a leader of freedoms of expression and information.”
  • Wikileaks.org, which helped draft the law, also has more information here (its site currently has restricted content, as it prepares for relaunch and seeks more funds).

In the Listening Post film, which also features Index on Censorship news editor Padraig Reidy, Wikileaks’ editor Julian Assange explains IMMI’s limits as well as its potential: “It’s important to remember that the IMMI appears to be a good bullet, but it’s not a magic bullet, so there will be many cases where there is brutal suppression of the press that IMMI doesn’t have substantial effect on.”

IMMI’s proponents hope new legislation will help change tough libel laws around the world, with a “ripple effect” in the EU and beyond.

The Free Speech Blog: Binyam Mohamed revelations ‘a victory for free speech’

The UK Court of Appeal’s decision to release material detailing the torture of Binyam Mohamed in secret jails is “undoubtedly an embarrassment for David Miliband, the Foreign Office and the government,” says Index on Censorship news editor, Padraig Reidy.

The redacted evidence, itself a mere seven paragraphs, revealed reports that Mohamed, who has never been charged with any terror offence, was shackled during interrogation, subjected to sleep deprivation and suffered severe mental stress.

Full post at this link…

Police visit blogger: a new use of the 1997 Harassment Act?

As noted here earlier this week, blogger Joseph Weissman has been reported to the police for ‘harassment’, after maintaining a website dedicated to scrutinising a Church of England vicar.

Rev Stephen Sizer, of the parish of Virginia Water, lodged a complaint about the site and its author was visited by the West Yorkshire police. The police report states that officers “had a word”, and as a result Weissman “voluntarily removed the blog concerned”.

Rev Sizer is a well-known, published critic of the State of Israel and of “Christian Zionism”. There are legal, religious and political aspects to the story; and related posts are being summarised and collated at Modernity Blog.

This is the short police statement given to Index on Censorship:

As a result of a report of harassment, which was referred to us by Surrey Police, two officers from West Yorkshire Police visited the author of the blog concerned. The feelings of the complainant were relayed to the author who voluntarily removed the blog. No formal action was taken.

Harassment is defined in English Law by the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act :

Harassment of a person includes causing the person alarm or distress; and a course of conduct must involve conduct on at least two occasions.

In a case of ‘harassment via Facebook’ two years ago, Michael Hurst was brought to trial for allegedly contacting his ex-girlfriend Sophie Sladden online, but he was cleared by Magistrates in Birmingham after the prosecution failed to prove the charge.

The definition of harassment above is deliberately wide-ranging, as it was introduced with the main aim of facilitating action in cases of domestic harassment. Is this law being used appropriately?

For the media and for bloggers, a harassment complaint in circumstances where there has been no documented physical threat or alleged ‘stalking’ incident is worrying.

The police have approached the Weissman’s university and spoken to the head of ICT.

Weissman deleted his website without any formal charges being brought, an action which a professional journalist may not have taken without at least obtaining legal advice. As non-professional and independent reporters develop a more significant place in the media, how do we ensure that their position is not compromised, and what responsibilities should they take on in return?

And, finally, is this an acceptable application of the 1997 Harassment Act?

Nominations open for Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards 2010

Index on Censorship’s 10th Freedom of Expression Awards are still open for nominations.

There are three categories: ‘Journalism’, ‘New Media’ and ‘Law and Campaigning’, honouring the ‘individuals who are leading the fight against censorship in all corners of the world’.

JOURNALISM AWARD: Recognising investigative journalism of dogged determination across a range of media including print, online, radio and television, taking into consideration impact, originality and revelation.

NEW MEDIA AWARD: Recognising innovation and original use of new technology to circumvent censorship, fostering debate, argument or dissent.

LAW AND CAMPAIGN AWARD: Recognising lawyers or campaigners who have fought repression, or have struggled to challenge political climates and perceptions. Special attention is given to people using or establishing legal precedents to fight injustice.

The nominations must be submitted at this link by 18 December.

The award winners will be announced in March 2010.

Jack Straw proposing ‘wholesale reform’ of UK libel law

The Sunday Times yesterday reported that Jack Straw is to ‘draw up proposals’ for ‘wholesale reform’ of British libel laws.

“The justice secretary says the large legal fees involved in defamation cases in English courts are jeopardising freedom of speech, potentially curbing vital debate by scientists, academics and journalists.

“The huge payouts awarded to individuals who successfully claim their reputation has been damaged has made London the libel capital of the world”

According to the Sunday Times, Straw was ‘impressed’ by the Index on Censorship / English PEN’s year-long inquiry into the state of British libel.

“The proposed changes are still under discussion, but Straw is keen to begin the process, which could involve a new libel bill, as soon as possible.”

Full story at this link…

Index on Censorship: Simon Singh wins leave to appeal in BCA libel case

Popular science writer Simon Singh has been granted leave to appeal in the libel action brought against him by the British Chiropractic Association, reports the Index on Censorship.

Full story at this link…

Singh is due to participate at an event at City University tomorrow, Thursday October 15:

Panel discussion: ‘Science Fact – science journalism and libel law’

Index on Censorship: ‘Girls Aloud obscenity case dropped’

The Index on Censorship reported yesterday that the Crown Prosecution Service has abandoned its case against Darryn Walker, a civil servant ‘who was facing trial under the Obscene Publications Act for writing a violent pornographic fantasy story about pop group Girls Aloud.’

Jo Glanville, editor of Index on Censorship said:

“This prosecution should never have been brought in the first place. Since the landmark obscenity cases of the 60s and 70s, writers have been protected from such prosecutions and have remained free to explore the extremes of human behaviour. This case posed a serious threat to that freedom. In future, obscenity cases should be referred directly to the director of public prosecutions before any prosecution is triggered.”

Full post at this link…

Awards round-up: Index on Censorship winners; Mind Journalism Awards; Paul Foot nominations call

Index on Censorship awards

This year’s winners of the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards were named in London last week.

The Sunday Leader received the journalism award. Its editor Lasanthe Wickrematunge was murdered earlier this year, shortly after publishing an opinion piece in which he predicted his death.

The award winners were selected in five categories: books, films, journalism, new media and law and campaigning.

Mind Journalist of the Year

The prize, which honours excellence in covering mental health issues, will form part of the charity’s annual Mind week in May.

The winner of journalism award will be named together with winners of the Student Journalist, Book of the Year and Champion of the Year awards on May 14.

The journalism nominees include: Patrick Cockburn from the Independent, Toby Wiseman of Men’s Health and Eleanor Harding from the Wandsworth Guardian.

Paul Foot Award re-opens

And last but not least, this year’s Paul Foot Award is open for entries for its fifth year.

Sponsored by Private Eye and The Guardian, the prize rewards investigative or campaigning journalism in the UK.

Entries to the award written by individuals or teams of journalists must be submitted by September 1. To be eligible, material must have been published either in a newspaper, magazine or online between September 1 2008 and August 31 2009.

The prize money this year is going up to £10,000 (from £5,000) for the winner, with £1,000 each for the runners-up.

Index on Censorship names John Kampfner as chief exec

Former New Statesman editor John Kampfner has been named as chief executive of the press freedom magazine Index on Censorship.

“As a leading journalist and broadcaster John brings the vision and leadership skills needed to place Index at the centre of the debate surrounding freedom of expression and champion this vital human right nationally and globally,” said Jonathan Dimbleby, chairman of Index on Censorship, in an announcement on the Index on Censorship’s website.

Index on Censorship launches new website

The new website for the Index on Censorship aims to be the centre of news and analysis of freedom of speech issues around the world, according to a press release from the site.

The use of WordPress for the site acknowledges the importance of open-source software in the batle against censorship online, the release says.