Politics & Society

Index Index – International free speech round up – 11/02/13

A boy has died today (11 February) after being shot by security forces in Kashmir during protests against the execution of a separatist. Ubaid Mushtaq, said to be 12 or 13 years old by doctors, died in a Srinagar hospital from bullet wounds following the 10 February protests in the village of Watergam, in which paramilitary forces opened fire on demonstrators.

The news of Mohammed Afzal Guru’s death in a New Delhi prison on 9 February ignited fierce objection and protests in three areas of India administered Kashmir, surrounding claims the men accused had not been given a fair trial.  The Kashmiri man was from a village close to Watergam, and had been convicted of helping to plot an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 that left 14 people dead. Police said an inquiry has been launched into Mushtaq’s shooting.

Baden Roth - Demotix

Chinese authorities said Elton John dedicating his Beijing concert to Ai Weiwei was “disrespectful”

China has tightened its restrictions on foreign singers performing in the country after Elton John dedicated his Beijing concert to Ai Weiwei in November. Chinese police questioned John after his Beijing performance last year, which he had dedicated “to the spirit and talent of Ai Weiwei”. Authorities then allegedly asked John to sign a statement saying that he had been inspired by Ai’s artistic achievements exclusively, rather than for his efforts to defend free speech. John was permitted to go ahead with his Guangzhou show in early December, but an editorial letter in the state-run Global Times said that the singer was “disrespectful” to include political sentiment in his performance, adding that authorities would think more carefully before inviting foreign artists to perform in future. Culture minister Cai Wu is now allegedly requesting degree certificates from international performers since John’s appearance, only allowing them entry into the country if they can prove they have been university-educated. Classical musicians have reportedly been required to submit proof of degrees when performing in the country since the start of the year.

A Hong Kong activist has been sentenced to nine months in prison on 7 February after burning a Chinese flag. Koo Sze-yiu was also discovered to have burned a Hong Kong flag, during two separate demonstrations against the government. In June 2012, Koo burned a Chinese flag outside the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government, in protest against the staged suicide of Chinese activist Li Wangyang, and on 1 January he was seen waving a Chinese and Hong kong flag with holes in both. He was charged with four counts of flag desecration. The maximum punishment for flag desecration is three years in prison and a fine of 50,000 HK dollars (approximately £4,000). Shortly after his arrest, a Chinese netizen was arrested for posting a picture of a defaced flag on to a social networking site.

A UK journalist is fighting a court application submitted by the police requiring him to hand over video footage of the English Defence League (EDL), it was reported today (11 February). Jason Parkinson has refused to hand over his footage, saying that journalists are “not evidence gatherers for the police”. He fought a similar case in 2011, where police attempted to seize his footage of the Dale Farm eviction of travellers in Essex. Greater Manchester police applied for a production order hearing on 18 February to view all published and unpublished footage obtained during an EDL and counter protest march by Unite Against Fascism in Bolton 20 March 2010. The National Union of Journalists intends to contest the application. Parkinson said that handing over the evidence “could overturn the incredibly important victory for press freedom” that was achieved during the Dale Farm eviction.

In Bangalore, India an artist was forced to remove his pantings from an art gallery on 5 February because they depicted Hindu deities in the nude. Anirudh Sainath Krishnamani was told by police that they received a complaint from a member of Hindu nationalist political group the Bharatiya Janata Party, claiming the paintings ”hurt the sentiments of society”. Police threatened to shut down Krishnamani’s exhibition at Chitrakala Parishath gallery if he refused to remove the offending pieces, which police said were a potential law and order threat and could cause protests or an attack. The paintings removed included a picture of a nude goddess Kali as well as Shiva and Sati hugging each other. MN Krishnamani, Anirudh’s father and a senior supreme court advocate will contest the decision.

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