We’ve had the photoblog, the linkblog, the blawg and the vlog; but Saudi Arabia, breaking new ground, has created an entirely new form of media output: the flog.
Raif Badawi, a blogger from Jeddah who ran a website promoting debate about religious and political issues, was sentenced by Saudi authorities to 1,000 lashes, shortly before Saudi authorities attended the je suis ‘we heart free speech’ march in Paris a couple of weeks ago.
Fortunately though, Saudi officials have promised to “review” the punishment. Pundits are expecting this impartial review to result in a rave review, I’ve stars for entertainment value and several Oscar nominations.
In other Saudi news, a cleric (which I always thought meant a junior secretary) has issued a fatwa against snowmen. Which is a little rich considering that the (then) King of Saudi Arabia often dressed as one (see right). The ruling was made was because Islam forbids any imagery of human beings… or at least that’s what they say…
Je suis un citoyen
The House of Commons has just concluded its review into Digital Democracy: how to make the public more engaged in the political process. The review team set itself some fairly modest targets, such as:
But some of their specific recommendations made rather curious reading. For example, they recommended Parliamentary broadcasters to:
Je suis Sussex
Michael Farthing (pictured left), Vice-Chancellor of Sussex, has been ordered by an independent investigator to apologise to the five students he tried to discipline last year, and to pay out over £10,000 in compensation.
The Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, who has the final say over students’ complaints against any university, found that Sussex’s decision to downgrade the disciplinary process to the ‘Schedule A route’ – which doesn’t allow the use of lawyers, unlike the previously-used ‘Panel route’ – had been taken “in order to prevent the students involved from being legally represented” by world-class human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC.
The magnitude of the compensation ordered places the case in the most serious of the Independent Adjudicator’s four levels of financial redress.
A statement published on the University website says:
…or in translation…
- Farthing was wrong to suspend the five students because the evidence relied upon did not demonstrate that they posed “an ongoing threat to the safety and wellbeing of others” as required by the procedure.
- Farthing was required to consult his colleagues before suspending, but Pro-Vice-Chancellor Claire Mackie complained that she was being pressured into taking a “snap judgment” (her words) without adequate information or time. Farthing ignored her concerns.
- Sussex relentlessly pursued five ringleaders but should, if it was genuinely interested in preventing disruption rather than suppressing free speech, have sought to identify the other ~65 people involved. This was in breach of universities’ “responsibility to ensure that their regulations are implemented fairly and consistently for all students”.
- The University acknowleged, belatedly and after dismissing these arguments at the time, that it would have been “impossible” (their word) to put together a disciplinary panel with no biased members.
- The Adjudicator held “[t]he University […] responsible for the choice of Panel members which led to the halting” of the proceedings, and for the “delay and poor communication” that followed, causing “additional distress and inconvenience” for the students.
- Sussex tried to deny said distress and inconvenience by pointing out that at least one of the students had performed well academically during the year. Little bit crass?
But I’m pleased that the Sussex spokesperson unit was able to find that small passage to use in its press release.
A freedom of information request for information relating to the case is pending. We’ll have to see whether it’s refused on the grounds of safeguarding the five students’ personal information… which would be strage as they were perfectly happy to cherrypick the report and quote bits to publish in their favour.
Je suis chocolat
A French judge has refused to let a child be named ‘Nutella’, although largely on trademark grounds rather than because it’s a bloody stupid name.
That said, almost as an afterthought, the ruling noted: “And it is contrary to the child’s interest to have a name that can only lead to teasing or disparaging thoughts.”
Really? You think so?
My real name is Nutella… but don’t spread it.
Je suis anglais (but maybe not for long)
A few weeks ago, the national media was brimming over with a new survey about anti-Semitism which revealed that over half of British Jews “believe they have no future in the UK”.
One commenter on the Sussex Friends of Israel Facebook page responded thus to The Independent giving the story front page coverage: “I must say they have a bloody chutzpah when they’ve done more than any other paper to promote anti-Semitism.” So two questions: (1) Can I take it you wouldn’t be complaining if the Indy had refused to run the story, then? (2) If you think the Indy is the worst newspaper ever then you really never heard of Der Stürmer?
What the media omitted to mention was that the survey – grandly called The Annual Anti-Semitism Barometer, which rather ominously suggests we will have to put up with it again next year – was completed by an entirely self-selecting group of British Jews who actively visited the website antisemitism.uk and gave their views on statements including, “Media bias against Israel fuels persecution of Jews in Britain.” (See if you can spot the methodological flaw in that question.)
The Jewish Chronicle was quick to rubbish the findings of the outragously unscientific survey, although one wonders why they chose to slam this one when they conducted their own survey – with identical findings – equally unscientifically (literally by asking arbitrary people walking past the JC office) in August.
Here’s the latest survey in full…
Note to readers: before you call me a bad human being for writing the above, remember that you’ve spent the last month defending people’s right to say controversial things.
Potential serial killer on the loose
An unusual spate of suspicous deaths has led one academic to speculate that a serial killer is on the loose.
The number of benefit claimaints who had their payments cut off to have died since the 2010 general election has now, claims Professor Sensible from De Monkey University, reached a “highly suspicious” level.
“It’s almost as if it’s not a coincidence that poor people die of cold or starvation shortly after the government stops paying them vital life-sustaining benefits!” said Sensible. “There may be a serial killer on the loose.”
Other unsolved crimes since 2010 include the theft of a large number of books from within prisons, the mysterious disappearance of the Iraq Inquiry report and a violation of the Trade Descriptions Act by the Secretary of State ‘for’ Justice Chris Grayling.
Je suis vireux
We all know that Police and Crime Commissioners’ attempts to engage with the youf of today end in disaster, because they have an uncanny knack of selecting youf strangely unrepresentative of the rest.
Sussex’s pride and joy, Katy Bourne, has cunningly got around this problem of how to look like she cares what voters think by setting up the country’s first (and please God, last) Elders’ Commission.
Absent a Hell’s Grannies-type scenario, their democratic input, about how policeman used to be taller and how there are ever so many shifty people about these days, seems unlikely to cross any lines.