Mr Hanky the Christmas Poo a new champion of free speech

Scatological humour has come under attack in Russia, as a broadcaster that showed an episode of South Park, featuring the above-named festive singing stool, fa(e)ces court proceedings and could lose their licence. They are also being criticised for screening episodes of Family Guy and The Simpsons (it sounds like a great channel).

The episode in question – one of the funniest ones, in my childish opinion – has been accused of promoting religious hatred. According to the Telegraph, the Russian parliament wants the station, 2x2, to be replaced by a channel that screens programmes encouraging children to be more patriotic and which "reflects the state position in the area of youth policy. Which sounds alarmingly like an attack on free speech and a preference for state propaganda.

On a more positive note, here in the UK Torbay Council has moved the other way and lifted a ban on Monty Python’s magnificent The Life of Brian after 28 years, which was deemed to be blasphemous when it was first released.

This all coincides rather neatly with another meeting of comedy and human rights in Amnesty’s Secret Policeman’s Ball, which takes place in the Albert Hall on 4 October and will be ‘cinecast’ live to cinemas up and down the country. Broadcast on Channel 4, the Ball will help Amnesty get our human rights message out to thousands of people, some of whom (I hope) will get involved with our work.

Again in the Telegraph – you can tell which paper I picked up this morning – there’s an insight why freedom of expression is such an important issue (aside from poking fun at organised religion). They carry a story alleging that the Chinese authorities tried to cover up the tainted baby milk scandal that has left thousands of children at risk and thousands of parents utterly distraught.

The story states that the dairy company, Sanlu, met several times with local officials and local reps of the government’s product safety watchdog to discuss worries about contaminated milk and babies suffering kidney stones as a result. But the news was suppressed to preserve social stability and because the Olympics were taking place.

I think a lot of the poor Chinese parents queuing up at hospitals would have ranked their children’s safety above the PR value of the Olympics. And while singing stools mightn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, the right to discuss organised religion – even if its in a mocking way – is something worth defending.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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