Writers Under Arrest
Filmed 25 Oct 2016
Venue Conservatorium Theatre
Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University
South Bank, Brisbane
‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” – Universal Declaration of Human Rights
However, these fundamental freedoms are often challenged using a variety of both legal and illegal tactics. These tactics include media regulation, defamation laws and criminalisation of ‘hate speech’ right through to, in more repressive regimes, harassment, arrests and jailing of people who are perceived as threats.
While there are reasons for limiting free expression these reasons can, themselves, be abused. States may claim this need for censorship – to protect morals, national security, public order – but what are the appropriate limits on such interference. When is state censorship just a matter of protecting power and political goals?
Three former ‘prisoners of conscience’ speak about the circumstances leading to their own arrests and the key issues and challenges facing freedom of expression around the world.
With special thanks to Amnesty International Australia and Index on Censorship
MA THIDA is a Burmese surgeon, writer, political commentator and human rights activist. In 1993 Ma Thida was sentenced to 20 years in prison, of which she served five and a half years, for her activism. Ever since her release she has monitored and written on events in Burma, and, with the lifting of the military regime, now heads PEN International’s Myanmar Centre.
PETER GRESTE is an Australian journalist and correspondent who has worked for Reuters, CNN, the BBC, and most recently Al Jazeera. On 29 December 2013, Egyptian security agents arrested Peter and two other Al Jazeera English journalists, accusing them of news reporting that was “damaging to national security”. He was jailed for 400 days in a crowded Egyptian Prison.
RAFAEL MARQUES DE MORAIS is an award-winning journalist and anti-corruption activist in Angola, working to expose corruption and abuse of power by the country’s ruling family. Despite repeated arrests and threats Rafael has continued his investigations, most recently detailing human rights abuses within Angola’s diamond companies.
A passionate advocate for freedom and equality much of Sakdiyah’s comedy challenges Islamic fundamentalism and promotes women’s rights. One of the very few female standup comedians in Indonesia to appear on national TV, she has often been asked to censor her jokes but has refused to be silenced.
MADONNA KING is one of Australia’s most accomplished journalists, having worked at senior levels at News Limited and the ABC, where she presented the Mornings program in Brisbane for six years. She writes for Fairfax, including a highly successful weekly column, and contributes to its Good Weekend magazine. She has written seven books, all defined by her skilful reporting and her ability to get people to talk in depth. These include the recently-released Being 14, and biographies of Professor Ian Frazer, who was behind the cervical cancer vaccine, and Joe Hockey, now Australia’s Ambassador to Washington.