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June 17, 2014

Index on Censorship confirms opposition to Royal Charter despite involvement of Hacked Off backer Steve Coogan

By Dominic Ponsford

Free speech campaign group Index on Censorship has confirmed that it remains opposed to the Royal Charter on regulation of the press despite comedian Steve Coogan joining as a patron.

Coogan is a prominent backer and spokesperson for Hacked Off, which campaigns in favour of the press adopting a system of regulation backed by the cross-party Royal Charter.

Index on Censorship chief executive Jodie Ginsberg said: “We’ve not changed our position and won’t change our position. It would be great if he were to change his position.”

She said the fact that Coogan supports free speech but does not agree with Index on the Royal Charter does not stop him from being a patron.

Coogan said in a statement: “Creative and artistic freedom of expression is something to be cherished where it exists and fought for where it doesn’t. This is what Index on Censorship does. I am pleased to lend my support and patronage to such an important cause.”

Guido Fawkes blog editor Paul Staines said on Friday in an open letter to Ginsberg: "I’ve happily done a little bit here and there for Index. A speech at an event, an article, a bid at an auction or a table at a fundraiser. I don’t claim to be the biggest donor to Index, over the years perhaps my support has been in the low thousands.

"I will never give another penny to Index as long as Steve Coogan is involved."

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Ginsberg told Press Gazette that to her knowledge no other Index supporters have withdrawn their support as a result of Coogan's involvement.

In a blog for The Spectator in April Index chairman David Aaronovitch and then chief executive Kirsty Hughes revealed that the group’s stance against state involvement in UK press regulation had cost it funding.

They said: “Index almost alone among similar organisations, took the position after Leveson that we should campaign against state involvement in the regulation of the press. This almost certainly cost us donors and continues to be a highly controversial position…”

Index says it uses a "combination of journalism, campaigning and advocacy to defend freedom of expression for those facing censorship and repression, including journalists, writers, social media users, bloggers, artists, politicians, scientists, academics, activists and citizens".

Last week it launched a new project which uses crowdsourcing platform Ushahidi to map threats to media freedom across Europe.

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