Not a Good Week for Speech

By Varadarajan, Tunku | Newsweek, December 17, 2012 | Go to article overview

Not a Good Week for Speech


Varadarajan, Tunku, Newsweek


Byline: Tunku Varadarajan

'don't speak'

Anyone reading the Nobel Prize acceptance lecture of this year's literature laureate could be forgiven for thinking that the writer is a bit of a mush-pot, so full is it of tear-jerking, almost schmaltzy anecdotes about his late mother. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mo Yan--or "Don't Speak," the pen name by which the Chinese novelist goes--may be a mama's boy, but he's no dewy-eyed sentimentalist. Speaking in Stockholm, Mo expressed support for censorship, likening its necessity to that of airport security: "When I was taking my flight, going through customs ... they also wanted to check me--even taking off my belt and shoes. But I think these checks are necessary." So, too, with defamation or rumors, which "should be censored." Mo added delphically that he hoped that censorship "should have the highest principle," the most charitable interpretation for which could be that he is against its capricious use. The writer's remarks came in the wake of his refusal to join 134 other Nobel laureates in signing a petition that calls on Beijing to release Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Peace Prize winner, from jail. All of which would appear to lend credence to the criticism leveled against Mo by a fellow literature-prize winner, Herta Muller. In an interview last month, the Romanian writer, laureate in 2009, described the award to Mo, a member of the Chinese Communist Party, as "incredibly upsetting" and a "catastrophe." (Muller toiled for years under the remorseless censorship of Nicolae CeauAescu.)

muzzled ministers

David Cameron's image as a decent sort of chap took a hard knock last week after Britain's Channel 4 revealed that the prime minister's office had barred two cabinet ministers from meeting the Dalai Lama in London in June. Tim Loughton and Norman Baker, ministers, respectively, for family affairs and transport, had been given permission to attend a lunch on June 20 for the Tibetan spiritual leader, hosted by the Tibet Society. A mere 90 minutes before the event, the green light turned to red. Loughton told the TV channel that "I had a whole barrage of calls" from Cameron's office ordering the two to stay away from the Dalai Lama. …

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