Malaysian U-turn on Shirin Ebadi
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 24th October, 2008
Yesterday I blogged in protest at the Malaysian Foreign Ministry’s writing to various organisations, including the University of Malaya, telling them to withdraw invitations to the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi to speak at a number of events early next month, so as to appease the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The satisfying news has now come through that the Malaysian Foreign Minister, Rais Yatim, has rescinded this interdiction, saying that it was an unfortunate mistake that was made without his knowledge.
It seems a bit odd, to say the least, that such a major step should have been taken without the Minister’s approval. But anyway I warmly welcome his statement that ‘Malaysia should allow the freedom of expression and criticisms at the highest level’. That is a important declaration of principle, as well as underlining the pragmatic realisation that there is no value keeping the mullahs in Tehran sweet if one damages one’s country’s reputation in much of the rest of the world in the process. It is worth nothing that most governments are sensitive to overseas public opinion, which is why blogging and the work of campaigning organisations such as Index on Censorship and International PEN are so important.