Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and his deputy Francis Wheen have quit as patrons of the Index on Censorship, an organisation defending the right to freedom of expression. They are standing down as patrons of the group in protest at comedian and Hacked Off campaigner Steve Coogan being appointed a patron. Coogan is an adamant supporter of Leveson's proposals for press regulation, a stance that Hislop and Wheen see as anti-press freedom.
Coogan said of his appointment: "Creative and artistic freedom of expression is something to be cherished where it exists and fought for where it doesn’t."
The organisation disagrees with Coogan's stance on Leveson's royal charter.
Hislop has declined to comment, but the Mail reports that Wheen said:
His [Coogan's] appointment is a slap in the face. Some of the other patrons want Leveson’s recommendations to be implemented (i.e. Tom Stoppard) but the point about Stoppard is that at least he does have a long and honourable record of defending freedom of expression elsewhere, even if perhaps he’s not so sound on Leveson.
Whereas Coogan by his own admission, as far as I can see, has never been involved in any such defence of free expression or anything even remotely connected with freedom of speech or the Press except for being involved in Hacked Off, which most journalists regard as an enemy of the free Press.
Here is a statement from the Index on Censorship's CEO, Jodie Ginsberg:
Our patrons are a diverse group of people, whose opinions sometimes diverge with our own. Free speech depends on open debate with people who may have points of view you disagree with. We regret that Ian and Francis have chosen to resign from our wide group of patrons. We have made it clear from the outset that we will not be changing our position on the Royal Charter. We will continue to maintain our focus on the work of those facing censorship in countries around the world, many who face daily threats of harassment, imprisonment and are at risk of being tortured or killed simply for speaking freely, such as Dina Meza, a Honduran journalist, and recent award winner, Shahzad Ahmad, one of the leading voices in the fight against online censorship in Pakistan.