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Highlights from the Global Forum on Freedom of Expression

Winners of the IPA prize: OLPEC founders Neziha Rjiba, Mohamed Talbi and Sihem Bensedrine
Winners of the IPA prize: OLPEC founders Neziha Rjiba, Mohamed Talbi and Sihem Bensedrine
More than 500 journalists, writers, activists and artists from over 103 countries converged in Oslo, Norway last week for the Global Forum on Freedom of Expression (GFFE). Through network meetings, including IFEX's general meeting, seminars, trainings and festival events, participants wholeheartedly delved into global free expression issues.

Besides the "Silenced Women's Voices" panel, highlights included an opening ceremony presentation by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, the environmental and political activist from Kenya. Index on Censorship and theatre company iceandfire presented the world premiere of "Seven Years with Hard Labour", a performance featuring the stories of five political prisoners in Burma. The Norwegian Centre for Cartoons and Freedom of Expression put on an exhibit of works of 60 cartoonists from 22 countries, showing their "immense power to offend." At the end of the week, academics Irshad Manji and Tariq Ramadan faced off for the first time in a heated debate on religious defamation and self-censorship.

For those of you who couldn't attend, here is a brief roundup of some of the resources on the forum:

Your first stop should be the GFFE website, the official site of the forum. See the whole programme and download the three editions of "expression", the forum's publication with news and updates from the ground and interviews with some of the attendees: http://expressionforum.org/ Check back on the GFFE website for transcripts of the hottest speeches.

In the meantime, watch video footage from the forum on GFFE's YouTube channel, including an eight-minute video clip featuring forum highlights, such as a spontaneous PEN photo at City Hall of participants holding signs of imprisoned Chinese dissidents and calling for their release on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre: http://www.youtube.com/user/expressionforum

Zimbabwean cartoonist Tony Namate of Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) has posted his favourite photos from the forum on Flickr, the photo-sharing site. Post your own pictures on Flickr - and tag them GFFE so others can take advantage: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=gffe

"Ethiopian publisher Serkalem Fasil couldn't make the GFFE thanks to Europe's visa and migration regime - a new way to censor!" reads one of the updates on Twitter by Rohan Jayasekera from Index on Censorship. Read what others got up to at the conference on Twitter, by searching for anything tagged with #GFFE, here: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23gffe

Finally, check in with our members about their involvement in the GFFE:

At the historic Oscarsborg fortress in the Oslo fjord, the International Publishers Association (IPA) presented the Observatory for the Freedom of the Press, Publishing and Creation in Tunisia (OLPEC) with its annual Freedom to Publish Prize. OLPEC's founders Sihem Bensedrine, Neziha Rjiba and Mohamed Talbi were on hand to accept the prize. Talbi at 90 years old was the oldest participant at the forum. See more on IPA's website: http://tinyurl.com/kstxba

Read the blog of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to find out how CPJ executive director Joel Simon found a way to bring IFEX members together to fight impunity for the killers of journalists, "the greatest threat to press freedom around the world": http://cpj.org/blog/2009/06/speaking-out-in-oslo.php

IFEX's Turkish members BIANET and the Initiative for Freedom of Expression (Antenna-TR) were amused to see a Turkish diplomat crashing their Publishers Roundtable. Consul Asip Kaya said that Turkey was a "free country, and nobody was put on trial under article 301" (which makes insulting Turkishness a crime). He was promptly booed: See Antenna-TR: http://www.antenna-tr.org/guncel.asp?feox=2102&lgg=en and BIANET: http://tinyurl.com/mrrbkn

For more news on the forum, be sure to check out the newly revamped IFEX website: http://www.ifex.org

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