Freedom of Speech Roundup
In the weekly Freedom of Speech Roundup, Sampsonia Way presents some of the week’s top news on freedom of expression, journalists in danger, artists in exile, and banned literature.
Persepolis Battle in Chicago Schools Provokes Outcry
The Guardian. Iranian author Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir Persepolis has been banned from Chicago’s seventh grade classrooms. A representative from the public school system has cited Satrapi’s comics as “containing graphic language and images not appropriate for the seventh grade curriculum.” Read here.
An Interview with Late Nigerian Author, Chinua Achebe
The Africa Report. Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian writer labeled as “the grandfather of African literature,” has died. In an interview from 2007, Achebe spoke with fellow Nigerian writer Helon Habila about the climate of free speech in his country, and why, despite the bleak situation, “he would keep working until his last day.” Read here.
Ai Weiwei, China’s Useful Dissident
The Atlantic. Artist Ai Weiwei has become the face of dissidence in China, popular for his quirky publicity stunts and affinity for western culture. But his antics may feed right into the Communist Party’s desires. Read here.
Yoani Sanchez on Why it’s Time to End the Embargo
Foreign Policy. After receiving permission to leave Cuba, blogger Yoani Sanchez is currently touring the United States. She recently spoke about Cuba’s dissident culture at the Cato Institute in Washington and urged the United States to end its embargo with Cuba. Read here.
Tupac Encouraged the Arab Spring
NPR. In an interview with Khaled M., a Libyan-American rapper, NPR host Michel Martin explores why rap and hip hop, specifically the music of American rapper Tupac, were a driving force in the Middle East and North Africa during the Arab Spring. Read here.
Tunisia: Jails Rapper For Calling Police Dogs, Defamation Law Threatens Free Speech
Al Arabiya. Tunisian rapper Weld el 15 has been sentenced to two years in jail for accusing the police of unjust acts of violence and describing them as dogs in a music video. Now on the run, the rapper defends his words as art, but the government still finds him at fault. Read here.
Weld el 15’s music video, titled “Cops Are Dogs” was released on March 3 via Rap Tunisien on YouTube.
Middle East Online. Human Rights Watch has called for a repeal on a Tunisian criminal defamation law, which could result in two-year prison sentences. The Deputy Director for HRW in the Middle East and North Africa, spoke out against the law, calling it “a chilling effect on freedom of expression.” Read here.
After Myanmar Journalists Decry Proposed Press Law, Government Backs Off For Now
The Washington Post. Plans for a new media law in Myanmar have been stifled because of opposition from local journalists. Any new law changes will now wait until June, after the government consults the media. Read here.
On The Ground: San Paulo
Index on Censorship. Free speech is protected by Brazil’s constitution, but recent arrests and censorship cases prove how rigid the nation’s free speech laws really are. After the arrest of Brazil’s top Google executive, and lawsuits held against popular newspaper Folha de S Paulo, many are criticizing the actions of Brazil’s judiciary. Read here.
Ultra Royalists’ Threats Forced Thai PBS To Stop Airing ‘Tob Jote’
The Nation. Thai royalists threatened to bring in protesters if the Public Broadcasting Service aired a program called Tob Jote (Answering Question), a debate on the monarchy. Critics said that Sulak Sivaraksa and Somsak Jiamteerasakul, a social critic and historian featured on the program, were causing “division” by speaking critically about the monarchy on air. Read here.
Press Regulation Deal Sparks Fears of High Libel Fines For Bloggers
The Guardian. British bloggers could face high fines if they refuse to sign up for a new regulator. The law deemed that all “relevant” bloggers or websites that generate news material fall under the new regulation codes. If a news site refuses to sign up, the damages and costs could be powerful enough to shut down small publishers. Read here.
Indian Police Set Up Lab To Monitor Social Media
Global Post. Police in Mumbai have set up the first social media monitoring lab, which includes a team of 20 specially trained police officers that will keep tabs on issues relating to public order. The lab is a result of arrests due to controversial Facebook posts and political cartoons last year. Read here.