Giving power to the bigots or much needed protection from hate-speech?

8 March 2005

Last night Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, the British-Sikh playwright, won the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn prize for her play, Bezhti ("Dishonour"), which was forced to close down a week after its opening in Birmingham (in December 2004) following violent protests from the local Sikh community.

Bezhti is referred to in Salman Rushdie's 7 February openDemocracy article ("Defend the right to be offended") where he attacks the British government's proposed legislation to ban "hatred against people because of their religious beliefs". Rushdie argues that the law will essentially undermine the principle of free speech and "will unleash some major expressions of intolerance" - as the author of The Satanic Verses he would potentially be liable for prosecution. Various blogs have picked up Rushdie's article including cultural pickings, pseudo magazine, bdandy, quarks daily and kitab khana.

His piece also triggered a powerful reply from the proudly "chutnified" writer Shakira Hussein, who agrees that we should retain the right to offend but must "ditch the right to incite hate". Yesterday - after Lisa Appignanesi joined the fray - Shakira came into the openDemocracy forums in defence of her argument. You can follow and contribute to the discussion here.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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