A very predictable furore

The most irritating aspect of the Nick Griffin-David Irving show is that it's allowed this hoary sto

To Warwick University to talk about censorship. Maureen Freely has invited me to address her students and fellow lecturers. She's been an invaluable guide for me through the labyrinth of Turkish politics, as well as writing for us about the shocking murder of the Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink. A great audience and a lively week for it, with the Oxford Union voting to go ahead with the Nick Griffin-David Irving show.

The most irritating aspect of this row is that it's put Griffin and Irving on the front page. As our news editor Padraig Reidy points out, this isn't about free speech: no one is banning Griffin or Irving from speaking in public or from publishing their work. But anyone who does invite them to speak can be sure of a ready-made free speech furore, and it's tiresome to see a hoary story (Irving has been invited to the Union seven times already) dominate the headlines.

Lyrical terrorism

The Samina Malik (the "lyrical terrorist") case has broken a silence. On 6 December she is likely to get a custodial sentence - but she's not the first young British Muslim to be convicted for a flirtation with violent jihadi propaganda. Yet her case as the first woman to be convicted under the Terrorism Act, whose morbid poetry was used as evidence against her, has provoked unprecedented protest.

The growing appeal of this radical deathly ideology is deeply disturbing, yet criminalising the mere possession of extremist material undermines a fundamental freedom. It is a global ideology, its literature is easily available, and some young people will want to explore it as they've always explored subversive politics or nihilistic ideas. It does not mean they will act on it. But juries are now convicting as if being a terrorist is a state of mind.

A farcical spectacle

Derek Pasquill will be back in court again in a few days. He's been charged under the Official Secrets Act for leaking Foreign Office documents to the New Statesman and the Observer. When the government itself is guilty of a serious breach of security (losing the private records of 25 million individuals), it looks a little shabby to be pursuing a civil servant whose misdemeanour pales in comparison. Since the leaks actually led to a change in policy, the decision to pursue Pasquill through the courts promises the farcical spectacle of someone being punished for releasing information that the government has actually benefited from.

Horror and fashion

To the V&A for the Lee Miller exhibition. I like the way it's lit in semi-darkness, although it does create an atmosphere of sepulchral hush. The photographs are remarkable. As you progress from her early surreal portraits to her war reportage (shot for Vogue), there is a shock in the very modern juxtaposition of horror and fashion. I'd never seen Miller's abstract photographs of Egypt before, nor her appearance in Jean Cocteau's film The Blood of a Poet. One of the most moving pictures is of Miller with Picasso - it captures a moment of intimate affection. But the most memorable is the drowned Nazi - underwater as if in a glass coffin.

Questions, not answers

Index on Censorship is getting a new look and the website is getting a makeover, too. The comment function broke down just as we'd posted the kind of piece that usually gets the invective going - an excellent report on the French libel case regarding the footage of Muhammad al-Dura, the Palestinian child whose death on camera was one of the most galvanising incidents of the second intifada. Thanks to our comment facility packing up, it was only when other sites picked up the story that the author of the piece, Natasha Lehrer, got the abuse any self-respecting commentator on Israel and Palestine has come to expect. I'm surprised that the story hasn't attracted more interest here - the reporter of the Dura story, Charles Enderlin, was accused of engineering a hoax. He sued for libel and won. The judgment is now being appealed and the footage was shown in court for the first time - but it has raised more questions than answers.

Jo Glanville is editor of Index on Censorship

This article first appeared in the 03 December 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Russia’s fragile future