Sunday, April 1, 2007

In Praise of Speaking Up: Some Free Speech Heroes

Free speech, we believe, is a key part of democracy and intellectual freedom. That's why we support a wide range of free speech and individual expression, even when it's speech or expression we don't agree with or appreciate.

With that in mind, we'd like to a highlight some international writers honored recently for their courage in the face of threats, intimidation, jail, and other forms of suppression.

Let's start in Kenya, where reporter Peter Makori has been arrested numerous times on trumped up charges ranging from defamation, murder and publishing alarming reports about government abuses. One of Makori's detentions lasted 11 months, during which he was denied food and medication, beaten, and threatened with death. Fortunately, he is now a fellow at the University of Missouri journalism school.

Shahram Rafizadeh of Iran has been less fortunate. An investigative reporter, blogger, poet and literary critic, Rafizadeh has written about Iranian intelligence agents and their 1998 murders of intellectuals and writers. For this "crime," Iranian officials put Rafizadeh in solitary confinement for 86 days.

In Cuba, Maria Luisa Leiva Viamonte has been followed and threatened by the security police. Her offense? Leiva is a journalist and one of the founders of Ladies in White, a group of wives and mothers of imprisoned dissidents.

Then there's the rising Asian economic superpower, China, which went after novelist and literature professor Cui Zi En. His offense was openly admitting his homosexuality. For this, he was barred from teaching and forced from his university apartment. When he refused to acknowledge that his sexual orientation was a disease, he was ordered to a hospital.

None of this is encouraging to free inquiry and personal liberty, values we champion here at Alternative Tulsa.

We know about these writers and others thanks to Human Rights Watch, which administers an annual program called the Hellman/Hammett Grants. These grants provide financial assistance to writers who have been victims of political persecution. According to the information we found, the 2007 grants are going to 45 writers from 22 countries, including those named above.

We salute all the writers who have the courage to stand up for their beliefs, even when their governments disapprove.


HM said...

I submitted your blog to for inclusion. All they have now are right-wing blogs.

Alternative Tulsa said...

Dear hm:

Thanks for your support.

hm said...

You're welcome. I got a complementary response back about AT, requesting background on the blog. If you like, you can send a note to