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President’s Forum on International Human Rights Held March 4-6

Published: March 2, 2009

“Exploring Challenges to Free Expression and Belief” is the theme of the second annual President’s Forum on International Human Rights at CSULB. The three-day event is set for Wednesday-Friday, March 4-6 with most events taking place in the University Student Union.

“In America, many of us take for granted our rights of freedom of expression and religion, but it is not as clear cut and easy as most Americans might think,” said CSULB President F. King Alexander, who will give both opening and closing remarks at this year’s forum. “Nearly everyday, we witness another example of the lack of freedoms or basic rights outside the United States. But even within our own nation, there are cases that challenge just how free we are to express our opinions and beliefs – cases in our classrooms, over the Internet and, ultimately, in our courtrooms.

“This year’s President’s Forum on International Human Rights will explore some of these issues from a variety of international perspectives, including instances in our past where clearly these freedoms were challenged,” Alexander said. “We will also look at current global issues impacting these basic human rights and what we can do in the future to maintain them.”

Delivering the forum’s keynote address will be Erwin Chemerinsky, dean for the School of Law at the University of California, Irvine. He will discuss “Free Speech in an Internet World,” on Wednesday, March 4, beginning at 2 p.m. in the USU Ballroom. The founding dean of the UCI law school, Chemerinsky is one of the nation’s most prominent constitutional scholars. Having argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals, he was named one of the “top 20 legal thinkers in America” by Legal Affairs.

Also on the first day of the forum will be a conversation with Norma Barzman, author of The Red and the Blacklist, at 7 p.m. The program is titled “The Hollywood Blacklist: A Screenwriter’s Story of Exile.” An aspiring screenwriter, Barzman was blacklisted during the McCarthy era for her refusal to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. She chose exile in France but later returned to the United States to campaign to restore the reputation of film artists whose careers were affected during that era.

Highlighting the second day of activities will be a 7 p.m. lecture and documentary screening by Egyptian-American film maker Jehane Noujaim. Noujaim will discuss her documentary “Control Room,” which describes U.S. Central Command and its relations with Al Jazeera and other news organizations that covered the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The film drew international attention by contrasting the coverage of the American invasion presented by the Arabic-language channel with U.S. military and American news outlets. Noujaim was the 2006 winner of the Technology Award Design (TED) “Wish to Change the World” award for her work.

Closing out the last day of the forum on Friday will be a 10 a.m. panel discussion on “The Free Expression Policy Project” (FEPP), featuring Marjorie Heins, the founding director of the project as part of the National Coalition Against Censorship. Heins has long championed the rights of artists to test the limits of censorship, media regulation and intellectual property laws, and FEPP is dedicated to exploring the challenges they face.

Other activities during the three-day event will be a lecture on “The Evolution of the First Amendment” by Professor Craig Smith, director of the Center for First Amendment Studies at CSULB; a lecture on “Start the Movement!: How You Can Contribute to Human Rights Advocacy” by Shahram Hashemi, executive director of the Student World Assembly, which is dedicated to global democracy, human rights and preparing students to be the leaders of the next generation; and a lecture titled “Some Ideas About Ideas” by Cleveland State University President Michael Schwartz, author of “The Chief Purpose of Universities: Academic Discourse and the Diversity of Ideas.”

In addition to the lectures, panel discussions, screenings and other sessions, there will be several student performances throughout the three-day event. For a complete schedule of activities, visit the Web site at www.csulb.edu/humanrights.

For other information about this year’s forum, call 562/985-5136.