Monday, August 15, 2005

WGGB anti-censorship committee

This week the Writers' Guild of Great Britain revived its anti-censorship committee which had been closed down some years ago.

"Writers are finding themselves in a very difficult situation," said Lydia Rivlin, Chairman of the new committee. "Religious pressure groups have recently started to use increasingly belligerent tactics to stifle expression, as can be seen by the riot which closed down a play in Birmingham in December. The police do not seem to have done very much to pursue the ringleaders and the writer is still in fear for her life.

"This phenomenon is by no means confined to ethnic minorities, either. A radical Christian group forced the cancellation of Jerry Springer - The Opera in at least one provincial theatre and has even compelled a charity to return the money donated by its producers. In this atmosphere, the Government intends to push through Parliament the Religious Hatred Bill, which we believe was formulated purely for short-term political gain.

"Whatever the reassurances, it will put writers under the threat of causing someone offence and finding themselves in the iniquitous situation of having to prove their
innocence. Whether it results in a prosecution or not, the experience will be unpleasant and the tendency will be to avoid it by playing safe. The effect on writing and entertainment and even our ability to exchange ideas could be calamitous. We are calling upon all writers and media workers to join us in resisting this attack on freedom of speech."

Graham Lester-George, Chairman of the Writers' Guild, explained: "The Writers' Guild started an Anti-Censorship Committee in the 1960s but when politicians stopped setting themselves up as our moral guardians, it was deemed surperfluous and wound up. It is to our great regret that we find ourselves compelled to reopen it."

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