Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 26th November, 2012
Perhaps it was being born and growing up in Singapore that gave John Kampfner insight into the dangers inherent in a social compact that gives citizens economic prosperity (and cleanliness!) at the sacrifice of some significant civil liberties. But certainly concerns about the nature and protection of freedom have been at the heart of much of his subsequent activity as a journalist, editor and former head of Index on Censorship. This evening, at a Pizza and Politics held immediately after the AGM of Holborn & St Pancras Liberal Democrats, he highlighted some of his concerns about some of the measures being considered by the Coalition government — not just the so-called Secret Courts but also proposals for greater surveillance of our emails and other communication traffic. As a convert from Labour to the Liberal Democrats (for which he has received much stick from earstwhile colleagues) John stressed how important it is for the Party to stick to its civil liberties beliefs. The records of both Conservative and Labour governments have been pretty dire in this regard, so the implication is that if LibDems don’t make a stand on freedoms then we risk losing our political soul. Nonetheless, we should take the findings of Lord Leveson seriously when they are published on Thursday. A totally unfettered Press can wreak havoc, as I would argue Fox News in the United States is doing. As always it is a matter of balancing freedom with responsibility, but for me that is very much what Liberalism is all about.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Fox News, Holborn & St Pancras Liberal Democrats, Index on Censorship, John Kampfner, Leveson Inquiry, Liberal Democrats, Singapore | Leave a Comment »
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 The satisfying news has now come through that the Malaysian Foreign Minister, Rais Yatim, has rescinded this interdiction, saying that it was an unfortunate mistake that was made without his knowledge.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.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Index on Censorship, International PEN, Islamic Republic of Iran, Malaysia, Nobel Peace Prize, Rais Yatim, Shirin Ebadi, University of Malaya | 1 Comment »