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Panel explore how macho male leaders stifle dissent at the Index on Censorship magazine winter 2019 launch party, London

Panellists at the Index on Censorship magazine winter 2019 launch party, held at Google, London, 15 January. From left to right: Rob Sears, Xiaolu Guo, Rachael Jolley, Dóra Papp and Safa Al Ahmed. Credit: Jonny Perfect/Index on Censorship

LONDON, Jan 15 – Index on Censorship Magazine editor-in-chief Rachael Jolley chaired a powerful discussion between Saudi journalist and Index award winner Safa Al Ahmad, Chinese/British novelist Xiaolu Guo, Hungarian activist Dora Papp and British author and satirist Rob Sears, on the ways macho male leaders around the globe stifle free speech.                          

   Each panellist discussed a world leader.

  Safa Al Ahmad, journalist and winner of a 2015 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award, likened the situation in Saudi Arabia to an abusive relationship: “First they [the state] gaslight you, they try to convince you that you’re not being abused, that this actually is for your own protection, for your best interests. Then when that doesn’t work out, then they beat you up and… when you escape from them they hunt you down and kill you.”

Papp observed that Orbán has not locked up or killed dissenters “yet”, but that he is at the stage of attempting to create a sense of discord amongst Hungarians.

Jinping, spoke about the importance of a dominating personality in a “strongman” leader in order to control the narrative of a country.

While speaking about Donald Trump, Rob Sears, whose satirical novels include The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump said, “for me the thing that is really worrying is his literary voice, the way he uses language and I think that’s what stifles free expression the most.”

The panel discussion, was held at Google HQ in London, Wed, Jan15.


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