Magazine editor and quiz show panellist Ian Hislop has resigned from the free speech campaign group Index on Censorship after they appointed Steve Coogan as a patron. Comedy actor Coogan has been an outspoken supporter of the ‘Hacked Off’ campaign which calls for a Royal Charter regulating the press, something many journalists see as an attack on free speech.
Mr Hislop’s deputy, Francis Wheen, also resigned his patronage of the group. He told the Daily Mail: “I wrote to them today and told them I didn’t want to be a patron if Coogan was. It seemed to me an absurd appointment.”
The ‘Hacked Off’ campaign support a Royal Charter regulating the press. The charter was proposed following an inquiry headed by Lord Leveson that looked into the issue of phone hacking committed by members of the press. Opponents say it amounts to government regulation of the press and oppose it on free speech grounds.
Ian Hislop, who edits Private Eye magazine, declined the comment on his resignation, but Wheen explained to the Mail that Coogan’s 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.”
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, said: “We disagree with Steve 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.”