Making a difference on our own terms

“I’m glad you two met each other-it’s good to know people from the same field”, a close male friend said as he introduced me to an online media owner. To his surprise, she remarked, “Maybe yes, but the question is what difference can we make?” Her response made me consider: what difference can we make ?

In the daily battle for survival, with readership figures and page impressions looming at the forefront of every editor’s mind, the media can struggle to draw clear boundaries between ’ethics’ and ‘free speech’.

Last month, Southern Weekend – a Chinese newspaper known for its cutting edge investigative journalism, faced criticism from its own employees when it had an editorial censored by Tao Zhen, a top propaganda official. The employees took to the streets to express their outrage and sought the resignation of the official. The British media also face the fallout of the Leveson Inquiry following phone-hacking investigations, and questions of media ethics and censorship have, once again, become a matter of public debate.

This edition of AGI explores various forms of expression, from ‘freedom of expression’ in the media, arts, and literature, to trying to give expression to ourselves. The former is both complicated and challenging. How far is one to free to express opinions that may, offend others? Should there be guidelines or regulations? If so, who decides, and who ‘polices’ them? We asked journalists, editors and artists in several countries about their right to exercise freedom of expression, and present some of their responses. Oleg Duo, a Russian artist and Aseem Trivedi, an Indian cartoonist, speak to AGI about their experiences and what freedom expression means to them.



Last year marked the fortieth anniversary of the expulsion of Ugandan Asians. Kajal Nisha Patel, whose parents came from Uganda to UK during the expulsion, documents the search for home in three generations, and how one finds their true identity in a foreign land. Lord Popat, Ugandan Asian, now a Government Whip in the House of Lords, tells AGI how things have unfolded for him after the expulsion since 1972.

We profile Singapore based CEO of Banyan Tree Resorts and Hotels, Claire Chiang; a leader, author and social entrepreneur who has kept sustainability and ethical principles at the forefront of her business activities. In an exclusive interview with AGI, she says that social enterprises will act as the synergy for change. Aekta Mahajan, an expert on social enterprises, explores whether social entrepreneurship is an answer to India’s problems.

The gang-rape in the capital city of India on 16 December 2012 shook the nation, and was followed by thousands of young protesters expressing their anger and frustration in the streets. Dhanya Nair provides an insight into this all too common crime, and narrates her experiences of growing up in India as a woman.

Lucy Carey, Deputy Editor of AGI says, “Mandarin is set to become the second most learnt language in the UK in the not too distant future”.  Jemimah Stenfield, Mani Pillai, and Lucy Carey debate whether learning Chinese is ‘mission impossible’.

The rising popularity of literature festivals in Asia shows a strong desire for ‘self-expression’. Books remain one of the strongest means for this- even in the age of the internet and social media. This issue of AGI provides a guide to Asian literature festivals in the coming year.

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist”.

Also in this issue, we highlight design, innovation and economic issues in Indonesia, Taiwan and Philippines, while Jacob Burge reports on street life in Tokyo. Shekhar Bhatia meets India’s significant Hijra (eunuchs) community and discovers their courageous struggle for existence. In their own way, they are ‘expressing themselves’ in a society that both marginalises and discriminates against them.

Salman Rushdie, who almost a year ago was banned from the Jaipur Literature Festival, once remarked, “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist”.

I don’t know if I entirely agree with that, but I do believe that we can make a difference; and not only those of us who work in various forms of media. We can all make a difference in others’ lives with an expression of respect, kindness, trust and love.

Did I say Love? Yes, we also cover the economics of Valentine’s Day in this issue.


Ramita Tejpal

On the Cover – Oleg Duo’s Newspaper

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