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31 January 2008

Petition for Sayed Pervez Kambaksh

Afghan journalism student Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has been sentenced to death by an Islamic court for the crime of downloading an Iranian report on women's rights, deemed to be insulting to the court's interpretation of Islam.

Kambaksh handed round the report at his university, with the aim of starting a discussion on the issue in class, but instead found himself denounced and arrested.

The Independent has the story, and is also mounting a petition to President Hamid Karzai, as in this case he is the only one with the power of veto over the court's decision.

You can sign it at www.independent.co.uk/petition

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17 January 2008

The professor who banned Google speaks

I don't know if anyone's spotted it, but an academic has been whipping up a storm (well, mid anti-cyclone) with an unenforceable ban on Google.

Despite her entry in Wikipedia praising her as a finalist for Australian of the Year, Professor Tara Brabazon has banned her students from using Google and Wikipedia, telling them 'Too many students don't use their own brains enough'. This raised the collective eyebrow of the blogosphere just days before her lecture, yesterday, titled Google is White Bread for the Mind proving she is still adept at using modern communication technology.

In reality, despite the alarmingly luddite attitude her ban might imply, the 37 year old professor of Media Studies made some interesting points, perhaps the most interesting was her support of projects like DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals), PKP (Public Knowledge Project) and even Google Scholar. Her concern is actually that of many journalists – that the value of quality writing and research is being lost as the public are increasingly subjected to opinion presented as fact, or a homogenised reality designed to appear in the top spot in a Google search.

Her solution? Good quality research being made available for free through these sources, in effect bypassing the expensive licenses charged by the electronic journals that make up modern libraries. All very well if you're being paid handsomely by Brighton University to teach and come up with headline-grabbing publications, but not a solution that will help us all.

You won't be surprised to hear that the lecture is not available as a PowerPoint file!