Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Rohan Jayasekera (writer)
Rohan Jayasekera is an Associate Editor for the magazine Index on Censorship.
Jayasekera and David Irving
Jayasekera has been one of the most controversial members of Index on Censorship for several years. In May 2001 he provoked outrage from critics of the revisionist historian David Irving by agreeing to share a stage with him at the Oxford Union to oppose the proposition that "this house would restrict the free speech of extremists". The previous year a High Court judge had found that Mr Irving was "an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-Semitic and racist and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism". Strong protest followed , including direct appeals to the then chair of the board, Michael Grade and objections from some of Jayasekera's colleagues.
Jayasekera was particularly castigated for breaking the so-called ‘no platform’ rule. The no platform policy - formally adopted by Britain's National Union of Students and other groups - argues firstly that fascists should not be given public forum, and secondly that if they do gain a platform other political parties and organisations should refuse to share it with them. Jayasekera declined to do so. The debate was eventually cancelled on the advice of police.
There was similar protest a year later when Jayasekera went online to defend Index on Censorship’s refusal to cancel a charity performance of the John Malkovich film The Dancer Upstairs at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). In May of 2002, Malkovich had been asked who – as the star of Les Liasons Dangereuses – who he would like to fight a duel with he picked Robert Fisk, the Independent newspaper’s middle east correspondent and Glasgow MP George Galloway, adding that rather than duel with them, he’d “rather just shoot them”. Fisk reacted with outrage ; Reporters sans Frontieres condemned the aside, but Jayasekera dismissed Malkovich's comment as “flippant” in a now-deleted online article for the Index website. “You can cry wolf once too often over unrealistic threats,” Jayasekera wrote. “It undermines the case for real action when real and present dangers to journalists raise their heads.” He added:
- Over the years since (the Rwanda genocide), and not without criticism, Index on Censorship has turned to reporting the areas where the right to free speech conflicts with these other rights. Index on Censorship is a journalistic enterprise, not a campaigning agency. This has freed it to make judgement calls - some say to equivocate - on when and where and how and why the freely expressed word can be a direct threat to other human rights.
The fundraising event went ahead in December 2002 despite a street protest outside the ICA.
Theo van Gogh
Jayasekera appears to have spent most of 2003 and 2004 in Iraq working on Index on Censorship's so-called "local media rights support" projects in Baghdad, a period when the Index website went into decline, but in late 2004 he was back and again involved in controversy after writing an online article that to many readers seemed to condone or justify the murder of the Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh. The article claimed that van Gogh was a "free-speech fundamentalist" who had been on a "martyrdom operation[,] roar[ing] his Muslim critics into silence with obscenities" in an "abuse of his right to free speech". Describing van Gogh's film Submission as "furiously provocative", Jayasekera concluded by describing his death as:
- A sensational climax to a lifetime's public performance, stabbed and shot by a bearded fundamentalist, a message from the killer pinned by a dagger to his chest, Theo van Gogh became a martyr to free expression. His passing was marked by a magnificent barrage of noise as Amsterdam hit the streets to celebrate him in the way the man himself would have truly appreciated. And what timing! Just as his long-awaited biographical film of Pim Fortuyn's life is ready to screen. Bravo, Theo! Bravo! 
There were many protests from both left- and right-wing commentators at the article. The veteran feminist commentator Germaine Greer called the item "vile vomit" and told the London Sunday Telegraph in December 2004, that:
- The problem with Index on Censorship's position is that, by its nature, they have to publish things that they don't agree with in order to prove their own point. I would hope that by giving a fanatic a platform and listening to what he says, that people would be able to see how crazy that person is and refute his arguments. On the other hand, no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the public.
- ...told me that, like many other readers, I shouldn't have made the mistake of believing that Index on Censorship was against censorship, even murderous censorship, on principle — in the same way as Amnesty International is opposed to torture, including murderous torture, on principle. It may have been so its radical youth, but was now as concerned with fighting 'hate speech' as protecting free speech.
Ursula Owen , the editor-in-chief of Index on Censorship, and a co-founder of the feminist publishers Virago strongly repudiated Cohen's account in a letter to the Observer . But she has also apologised for Jayasekera's original comment article, saying she didn't think "the tone (was) right". But she would not delete it from the online archives or dismiss the author from his job with Index. Jayasekera has written of his own regrets, without withdrawing his opinion of Van Gogh's life work, putting his own case for speaking his mind on Van Gogh's life legacy on the Index website.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details