Monday 28 September 2009

Neil Clark on censorship

In a 2003 Daily Telegraph article Neil Clark wrote:
As an up-and-coming Labour backbencher, [Roy] Jenkins had written, in the late 1950s, a tract entitled Is Britain Civilised?, in which he attacked Britain's "archaic" laws on censorship, homosexuality, divorce and abortion
So censorship, interpreting Clark's scare quote, is justified? Actually, Clark is referring to the last chapter (merely p135-140) of Jenkins' short book The Labour Case, one of three Penguin Specials written by representatives of the main parties for the 1959 General Election, rather than a complete work. Clark refers to Jenkins' first period as Home Secretary:
Now it was full steam ahead to give support to private members' Bills to decriminalise abortion and homosexuality, relax censorship and make divorce easier.
The anti-censorship Bill he is thinking of became the Theatres Act 1968; the republican Clark presumably believes a member of the Royal Household should have continued to censor play scripts. The Obscene Publications Act of 1959, Jenkins had been involved in its parliamentary passage, had already led to suppressed works being published in the UK for the first time, albeit sometimes following a court case.

I bring all this up because Clark has an article in the current New Statesmen in which he complains about new censorship laws in Serbia. Apparently under them, opponents will be blocked from making derogatory comments about the government. Of cause, it is really yet another retrospective defence of his hero, Slobodan Milošević. One recalls the Serbian authorities banning the independent B92 radio station in 1991 and 1996 and other interferences in the operation of a free press. A paper on this subject was written for the hearings of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague (.pdf file or Google html conversion). Clark really condemns in order to condone. On p15 of the ICTY document, there is a summary:
A careful review of media coverage in Serbia [from 1987 onwards] demonstrates that the "need" to expel the non-Serbs is a recurrent theme in the media - whether the message is conveyed by politicians, intellectuals, military personnel, journalists etc. The entire press repeated systematically and all together the inflammatory declarations referring to the dangers confronting the Serbian peoples and explicitly or implicitly threatening the non-Serbs with reprisals. [For simplicity, I have removed references from this passage.]
Not exactly a pluralist media.

Strange though how he comes over all liberal when he is defending people he admires. Only last week in the Morning Star, writing about "leftists who didn't sell out", Clark was referring to the "liberal brand of communism" pursued by another of his heroes, János Kádár, who was imposed by the Soviets after their overthrow of the Imre Nagy government in 1956. Clark's article has been rubbished by Andrew Coates and Captainjako of Frank Owen's Paintbrush (here and here).