Tuesday, February 01, 2011

RSF's boycott of the Galle Literary Festival was damaging to free speech

Reporters sans frontières (RSF), an organisation that campaigns for freedom of the press called for a boycott of the Galle Literary Festival.

I think this is wrong.

In the first place, this is a privately organised festival for the celebration of literature. It not a State organised event and has nothing to do with the government. Two state owned entities, Sri Lankan Airlines and the Tourist Board are sponsors, on commercial terms but they are two of a list of many that includes several embassies, UNESCO as well as companies.

Why target individuals who have nothing to do with the crimes committed?

Second, the festival does provide a space, however small, for the sharing of ideas and shutting it down would only hurt the very cause that RSF trying to further. To give just two examples from this years festival, on the opening day the BBC Forum event; After Shock: The Lingering Legacy of Civil War, lead to some useful discussion while more thought provoking ideas were looked at the Farish Noor talk.

It is not just at the organised events that discussion takes place, the festival brings together some every interesting minds and chatting to people one meets in the cafes and street is just as productive.

Personally speaking, I find the festival refreshes the mind and sharpens thinking, which is precisely what RSF is trying to promote.

This is not to say that there is no serious problem of media freedom, as the attack on the the LankaeNews office yesterday demonstrates, it is just that this is the wrong way to go about promoting media freedom, something RSF chief editor Gilles Lordet admitted when he said that a boycott was "never a constructive solution".

Whether you like the literary festival or not, whether you support the government or not, if you feel that Reporters without Borders' boycott was damaging to the cause of free speech, please join this group, to prove that most people oppose the boycott.

Sunila Abeysekera, an award winning human rights activist also wrote against the boycott, see her letter here.


Angel said...

Thanks for posting JP... have requested to join! :)

Jack Point said...

Thanks Angel, will do.

Mango said...

One of the GLF boycott organisers, a hack called Antony Loewenstein was 'honoured' to participate in the boycott.

Anyone who disagreed with him (including the wet Colombo liberals:) were 'nationalists'!

Even better, Loewenstein says 'well done' to the pro-LTTE diaspora instigated, Sri Lankan textiles boycott in Europe.

His Twatter (sic) feed glories in his power and influence. http://twitter.com/antloewenstein/status/32575621808791552

He's a keen supporter of 'Tamil Homelands', arch hypocrite (free speech is OK but not for Sri Lanka), pro GSP+ suspension and SL cricket team boycotter.


or http://tinyurl.com/49372a5

To be lectured on press freedoms from the likes of Loewenstein is like being given child care tips by King Herod.