The beauty of Bali
04 Oct 2010


The curious relationship between Wikileaks and everybody else
04 Oct 2010

What a story:

Where do you draw the line between free speech and national security? At what point do issues of justice trump potential threats to soldiers, translators and informants?
Last Thursday, Julian Assange answered these questions and more in a debate pitting him against the Times columnist David Aaronovitch at London’s City University that was sold out within hours, with TV crews and photographers flying in from around the world.
Assange found himself having to defend WikiLeaks, in particular the leaking of documents detailing Nato’s actions in Afghanistan. How would he feel if any Afghan citizens were killed as a result? Assange replied that the Pentagon had not identified a single person who had been harmed. But he added, somewhat chillingly: “I’m not scared to make mistakes or be blamed, or even accidentally cause harm in the cause of justice.”
The circumstances surrounding the debate were bizarre. Assange had contacted Index on Censorship’s chief executive, John Kampfner, through an intermediary: he would be in London, would Index be interested in hosting a talk by him?
Assange was told he would have to debate with one of his sternest critics. He agreed but had his own stipulations: no press photographers at the event; it could only be filmed by a camerawoman sanctioned by Index and the university; there would be no press calls, or live stream (this caused considerable consternation on Twitter).
How could Index, the UK’s leading free expression organisation, keep out broadcast media? In the end we decided it was worth going ahead. People in the lecture theatre would be free to tweet and liveblog.
The days leading up to the debate were tense: Assange went awol, and 36 hours before the event we were seriously considering cancelling. After a day and a half of nervous phonecalls, however, he emerged and was led through the university’s back corridors, avoiding the waiting cameras.
As the debate ended, the photographers and film crews were allowed in. A sensible compromise had been reached. But the situation demonstrated the tightrope that free-speech campaigners walk every day.


Just the kind of person to be working with David Cameron
04 Oct 2010

Rupert Murdoch must be so proud of his former staff. This is what ethical journalism is all about:

The prime minister’s media adviser, Andy Coulson, personally listened to the intercepted voicemail messages of public figures when he edited the News of the World, a senior journalist who worked alongside him has said.
Coulson has always denied knowing about any illegal activity by the journalists who worked for him, but an unidentified former executive from the paper told Channel Four Dispatches that Coulson not only knew his reporters were using intercepted voicemail but was also personally involved.
“Sometimes, they would say: ‘We’ve got a recording’ and Andy would say: ‘OK, bring it into my office and play it to me’ or ‘Bring me, email me a transcript of it’,” the journalist said.
The claim, due to be broadcast tomorrow night, goes beyond earlier statements by Coulson’s former colleagues.
Sean Hoare, a showbusiness reporter, told the New York Times Coulson had “actively encouraged” him to intercept voicemail.


Dershowitz in Sydney calls for quick little bombing run of Iran
03 Oct 2010

Last night in Sydney – and what an event to miss! – Sydney Morning Herald political editor Peter Hartcher interviewed Alan Dershowitz. Hartcher is a perfect person, being a close friend of the lobby (along with receiving free trips to Israel).
Sounds like there were too many “highlights” to mention but this stands out:

Dershowitz said that the Israeli red line, a line which if crossed by Iran would invoke an attack, is six months ahead of America’s and he advocated a three day war by the U.S. to knock out Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in order to maintain peace in a region threatened by Iran’s nuclear capability.

War is peace. Bombing helps stability. Zionism is all about love.
With 2000 people hearing Dershowitz at this venue and no doubt many of them Jews who love the idea of a Zionist who speaks about glorious Israeli democracy, occupation and bombing Iran, my religion is sick, perhaps beyond repair.


How the Ubud Writers Festival bridges the cultural divide
03 Oct 2010

This year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali, Indonesia begins this Wednesday – I’m currently in Bali flossing my vocal chords – and Indonesian writers and poets will feature prominently.
The reaction to my work in Indonesia last year was amazing, countless engagements with a mainly Muslim audience, including in Aceh, about the Middle East and the importance of Jewish dissent over Palestine.
I’m ready for more.

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