Friday, 21 September 2007

Freedom of Speech?

One interesting side-effect of the internet has been the proliferation of personal sites and the consequent ease with which information can be propagated. Which makes it much harder to prevent libel, but concomitantly much easier to protect freedom of speech. Not everyone likes this, of course, and here we meet the hero of our tale Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek-born Russian steel, lumber & mining oligarch, pal of Uzbeki president Karimov and also of Putin. He's part of what I imagine no-one likes to call the Gazprom family, and he busies himself with buying up independent media outlets.

This week, by way of a change, Usmanov and his lawyers, Schillings, have been closing down websites, most notably that of Craig Murray, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan. On his personal website Murray wrote about the "alleged" personal crimes of this delightful oligarch. Ah, incidentally, Usmanov is currently busy buying Arsenal, and with his purchase of David Dein's shares is now the second largest share-holder. Loads of Arsenal sites have already received warnings about not repeating any of these "allegations". Doubtless the former British ambassador is a beacon of ill-informed prejudice, unfairness and malicious untruth, busy pushing his own personal agenda for mysterious yet nefarious reasons. Or something.

Rather than directly contact the ex-ambassador the lawyers went straight to the webhost, so that in the process of removing Murray's site they also shut down a number of others who had never even mentioned the story, including, amusingly enough, that of Boris Johnson. Who will doubtless have plenty to say about it.

This is all a bit gobsmacking. Are we really so money-obsessed that freedom of speech can be so comprehensively circumvented? I seriously hope that people are going to get monumentally angry about this. Abramovich, Shinawatra and now this... it's not just a football issue, surely, it's about fundamental democratic freedoms? Though the thought of this man in charge of Arsenal is deeply deeply repellent.

[Of course, if people do get het up now, it will interestingly demonstrate how the loss of freedoms here is so much more important than the loss of freedoms elsewhere in the world, which people obviously don't care about so much...]

The original post by Murray can, for the time being, be found here though who knows how long it will stay up. If you're interested there's a petition here by Arsenal fans (with many thanks to Goldstone97 from the very good for this link and much of the story).

1 comment:

de vertalerin said...

Unbearable, intolerable, extremely distressing.