Raymond Louw Comments on UCT’s Decision to Disinvite Flemming Rose

17 Aug 2016
Raymond Louw Comments on UCT’s Decision to Disinvite Flemming Rose

This is one in a series of articles responding to UCT’s decision to rescind an invitation to Danish journalist and writer, Flemming Rose, to give the TB Davie lecture on Academic Freedom. PEN SA President Margie Orford spoke about the matter here and called for responses, all of which can be found here.

By Raymond Louw

I am saddened by the decision to disinvite Flemming Rose to deliver the TB Davie Memorial Lecture because the subject requires airing in South Africa where Islamophobia and other intolerant views and conduct have been a serious impediment to the furtherance of freedom of expression and toleration in a country that sadly needs those values to be upheld.

One sympathises with Dr Max Price for being influenced by the prospect of violence on the campus outweighing the freedom of expression concepts that are fostered by a university but at the same time one laments that the institution has succumbed to the suppression of its principles by the threat of violence with the result that decision-making is dictated by the fear of violence.

It is also sad that the university claims that the atmosphere in 2015 when the invitation was issued was more peaceful than the time when the disinvitation was sent. In March 2015 the students at UCT launched the RhodesMustFall campaign which also carried the threat of potential violence.

Here again was an example of the threat of violence influencing decision-making because one of reasons for the university authorities bowing to the demand that the statue be removed was that they feared a violent reaction.

Raymond Louw is the Vice-President of PEN SA and is a veteran journalist and media freedom activist.