Rushdie is recovering, free speech is not

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we look at the global state of free speech, Afghanistan a year after the Taliban took over, and another US delegation visiting Taiwan.

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Rushdie and the global fight for free speech

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we look at the global state of free speech, Afghanistan a year after the Taliban took over, and another US delegation visiting Taiwan.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Rushdie and the global fight for free speech

Salman Rushdie is “on the road to recovery”, his agent Andrew Wylie said on Sunday, days after being the victim of a brutal assault.

Rushdie rose to worldwide fame in 1989 after his novel, satanic verses, earned him a death sentence via a fatwa from Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (which allegedly never read the book). Rushdie was scheduled to speak in a western New York auditorium when he was stabbed repeatedly by his attacker, Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man from New Jersey.

Attacks on people associated with Rushdie’s work in 1988 traveled the globe. Hitoshi Igarashi, the book’s Japanese translator was stabbed to death in 1991 in Tokyo in a case that remains unsolved. In 1993, Aziz Nesin, who translated an excerpt into Turkish, fled a burned down hotel by an enraged mob; 37 other people died in the fire. Later that year, in Oslo, Rushdie’s Norwegian publisher was shot at his door to make a full recovery and then reprint the book.

The attempt on Rushdie’s life is a reminder not only of the enduring power of Khomeini’s fatwa, but also of the threatened status of free speech.

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of free speech organization PEN America (and a frequent FP contributor), wrote that the attack comes “at a time of escalation and protean attacks on freedom of speech. ‘expression in the world’.

While high-profile attacks remain rare, simply locking up vocal dissidents is not: PEN’s Freedom to Write Index, which tracks the imprisonment of writers, academics and researchers public intellectuals, has seen a significant increase in recent years with Myanmar, China and Saudi Arabia. at the top of the list of the worst offenders in 2021.

The stakes are similar in the world of journalism, where the number of members of the press in prison reached a record last year, according to The figures compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists. China and Myanmar again top the list, with Egypt, Vietnam and Belarus rounding out the top five.

Although 55 journalists were killed in 2021, the lowest number a decade from now, this is unlikely to signal a trend – 45 journalists have already been killed this year according to CPJ, a third of them in Ukraine.

Far from ushering in a new era of free speech, big tech platforms are increasingly siding with repressive regimes as they seek market access in authoritarian states.

The world reacts. In India, Rushdie’s birthplace and the country where the book was first banned, the government has still to comment to attack. Pakistan, where the riots are said to have influenced Khomeini’s fatwa, also remained silent.

Iranian government opted instead for victim-blaming: Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that “Salman Rushdie and his followers are responsible for what happened to him… Freedom of speech does not justify Salman Rushdie’s insults against religion and the attack on its sanctities.” For their part, Iran hard-core media outlets celebrated the attack, quickly sparking conviction of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Western leaders universally backed Rushdie. US President Joe Biden Express his solidarity with Rushdie and offered prayers for his recovery, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Free identical words. French President Emmanuel Macron joined the chorus, hailing Rushdie’s battle against the forces of obscurantism“His fight is our fight; it is universal. Today more than ever, we are at his side. »

The world this week

Monday August 15: One year since the Taliban entered Kabul and took control of Afghanistan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers Independence Day speech.

Tuesday August 16: The deadline for Kenya’s Electoral Commission to announce the results of last week’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo delivers his State of the Nation Address.

Thursday August 18: The European Union publishes its inflation statistics.

What we follow today

One year later. Today marks one year since the Taliban entered Kabul and ended the government of Ashraf Ghani. Stefanie Glinski, writing in Foreign police Saturday looked at how Afghans lived through a year under Taliban rule and looks at a Kabul that “seems to have lost its mind” and Lima Halima Ahmad recounts how Western powers and donors created the category of ” Afghan women”, returning the country’s women to becoming perpetual victims in the eyes of the world, while all parties have instrumentalized them for political ends.

More Taiwanese visitors. Five U.S. lawmakers, led by Senator Ed Markey, come in Taiwan on Sunday for a two-day visit, following in the footsteps of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this month. Markey and his House colleagues Alan Lowenthal, John Garamendi, Don Beyer and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen – a delegate from American Samoa – are scheduled to meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday. China’s Foreign Ministry has yet to react to the trip, but its military has continued incursions into Taiwan’s air defense zone since Pelosi’s trip.

Keep an eye on

Xi in Riyadh? Chinese President Xi Jinping is preparing to make his first trip outside China since the start of the coronavirus pandemic during his visit to Saudi Arabia this week, the Guardian reportsoil supplies are likely to be at the top of the agenda.

The news comes amid a conflicting report on Xi’s timing, with the the wall street journal reporting that Xi will make the G-20 leaders’ summit on the Indonesian island of Bali his first post-pandemic international trip. The summit takes place in November after the Chinese Communist Party Congress, where Xi is expected to be nominated for a third term as president.

The Egyptian Tragedy. At least 41 people were killed in the Greater Cairo area after a fire broke out Sunday morning in a Coptic Orthodox church. At least 45 other people were injured in the fire. Local authorities attributed the cause of the fire to an electrical malfunction in an air conditioning unit.

Explosion in Yerevan. At least one person was killed and 20 others injured in the Armenian capital of Yerevan following a big explosion at a commercial market on Sunday. The fire is believed to have involved a fireworks warehouse, but the exact cause of the explosion is not yet known.

Feline freedom. Most cats in the German town of Walldorf will breathe fresh air today for the first time in three months after an unprecedented crisis chat lock.

The animals were kept indoors for most of the summer to protect the endangered crested lark, which this time counts as its breeding season.

Owners were only allowed to take their cats outside on a leash during the lockdown period, but were held in line by the threat of a €50,000 fine if their cats attacked the birds. Although there is no evidence yet that this has improved crested lark numbers, Walldorf is expected to reinstate the measure next year.

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