UK

Ian Hislop Vs Steve Coogan: Private Eye Editor Quits Index On Censorship Over Steve Coogan's Appointment

19/06/2014 17:19 BST | Updated 19/06/2014 17:59 BST

Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and his deputy editor Francis Wheen have quit the campaign group Index on Censorship in protest of Steve Coogan being made a patron.

The pair apparently object that Index on Censorship, an organisation that is supposed to defend the right to freedom of expression, has appointed Coogan due to his involvement with the group Hacked Off.

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Hacked Off supports the Royal Charter on Press regulation following the Leveson Inquiry, which Wheen and Hislop perceive as anti-freedom of the Press.

"I wrote to them today and told them I didn’t want to be a patron if Coogan was," Wheen told the Daily Mail. "It seemed to me an absurd appointment."

Its distinguished patrons include playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer and Michael Palin.

In a press release issued by Index, Coogan said: "Creative and artistic freedom of expression is something to be cherished where it exists and fought for where it doesn’t."

But Wheen said the appointment was "a slap in the face."

"Some of the other patrons want Leveson’s recommendations to be implemented (i.e. Tom Stoppard) but the point about Stoppard is that at least he does have a long and honourable record of defending freedom of expression elsewhere, even if perhaps he’s not so sound on Leveson.

"Whereas Coogan by his own admission, as far as I can see, has never been involved in any such defence of free expression or anything even remotely connected with freedom of speech or the Press except for being involved in Hacked Off, which most journalists regard as an enemy of the free Press."

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Jodie Ginsberg, Index’s CEO, acknowledged the group disagree with Coogan on the Royal Charter.

"But that does not mean we cannot agree on the importance of fighting to defend artists and writers being censored daily across the world," she added.