First off, thank you for all the wonderful messages of support and for the donations. My apologies for not yet having replied individually to everyone – I have spent the past week answering emails and have still not managed to clear my inbox. If I may ask those waiting for a reply to exercise a little patience, I will do my best to respond as soon as time permits.
Two nights ago, I watched a BBC Newsnight report on an exhibition about censorship of music in Stalin’s Soviet Union, currently doing the rounds in Tel Aviv(!) before coming to London. Stalin banned all genres of music which he found ‘un-Soviet like’ – not just rock ‘n’ roll, but also traditional Russian folk tunes. Dissidents found a way to record songs on x-ray film: the exhibition features these medical scans of human bones, engraved with ‘Rock Around the Clock’ and other classics. But for me the most interesting part of the BBC report concerned a Haifa-based Palestinian Arab musician, Jowan Safadi, arrested and charged for incitement because of a song performed at a music festival in 2010.
After two years of fighting charges of incitement to violence and support for a terror organization in songs they performed in 2010, two Arab rap singers from Haifa finally won their case.
The prosecution originally agreed to drop the charges for lack of evidence but the rappers, Wala Sabit and Jowan Safadi, who were charged over songs they performed at a coexistence festival in Haifa, fought until the court declared them not guilty.
Safadi, who was also arrested and detained in Jordan for blasphemy, was equally
subjected to a press-led smear campaign. The Haaretz report concludes:
Safadi said he was pleased with the outcome of their struggle, and that over the past two years he and Sabit had been the victims of incitement themselves, following reports that they had praised suicide bombings. “It was very important for us to achieve this result, because in the end we are artists and without freedom of expression we have nothing to do,” he said.
We shall see tomorrow, 10 am, Westminster Magistrates Court, whether or not the British justice system wishes to outdo the Middle East when it comes to removing artists’ right to freedom of expression, including the right to mock and satirise without fear of the ‘risk’ of causing offence. Because if this is indeed the case, then there can be no more satire.
Rendez-vous from 9 am, Marylebone Station forecourt.