David Aaronovitch

Index on Censorship is thriving and defending free speech around the world

Index on Censorship defends free speech and debate for all – so we defend Nick Cohen’s right to write a blog highly critical of Index. The problem is, however, that what he wrote was wrong, both in broad outline and finer detail. As a consequence Nick threatens to undermine the very cause that he claims to hold most dear.

Index is not ‘falling apart’ nor is it even ‘in crisis’. In common with many other organisations in the charity sector it found itself, last year, facing a shortfall in funding. There are complex reasons for this but one of them, ironically, may be due to the very opposite problem to the one Nick suggests. Index almost alone among similar organisations, took the position after Leveson that we should campaign against state involvement in the regulation of the press. This almost certainly cost us donors and continues to be a highly controversial position, as those attending last week’s journalism conference at the LSE may be able to testify.

The result of the shortfall was a retrenchment and some redundancies, inevitably involving very valuable and respected staff members. This was painful and necessary but there was no other credible way of safeguarding Index’s position.  The financial outlook for Index is now much more robust. But even while this process was going on Index staff, together with our many regional correspondents and freelance contributors to our website and magazine round the world, were highlighting and taking on censorship in dozens of countries.

Last week, before an audience of 260 people at the Barbican in London, our 2014 Index Freedom of Expression Awards celebrated 17 brave and extraordinary nominees and hailed the four winners of our awards, from Egypt, India, Pakistan and Azerbaijan, covering journalism, advocacy, arts and digital freedom.

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