Two high-profile British journalists have resigned from a freedom of speech campaign group after actor/comedian Steve Coogan was appointed as a patron. Last week (ends15Jun14), the Philomena star became a member of the Index on Censorship, an international organisation which promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression.
The move has sparked criticism because Coogan is a prominent supporter of Hacked Off, a group which campaigns for tougher press regulation, and other patrons fear the actor's appointment represents a conflict of interest.
Famed writer/broadcaster Ian Hislop and Francis Wheen, the editor and deputy editor of satirical U.K. current affairs magazine Private Eye, have resigned from the board of the Index on Censorship in protest at Coogan's appointment.
Wheen admits he was "baffled" by Coogan's inclusion, adding, "There are plenty of celebrities to choose from, it seems odd to choose someone who is so heavily associated with Hacked Off."
Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of Index defends Coogan, saying, "Our patrons are a diverse group of people, whose opinions sometimes diverge with our own. Free speech depends on open debate with people who may have points of view you disagree with..."
Monty Python actor Michael Palin and playwright Sir Tom Stoppard are also patrons of the group.
The James Bond legend will present an edition of the BBC's Have I Got News for You, which features series panellists Ian Hislop and Paul Merton discussing the week's events - and Sir Roger can't wait for the challenge.
He says, "I'm really looking forward to appearing on one of my favourite shows and just hope Ian and Paul will treat this old English actor gently.
"If not, I'll press the button which releases their chairs into a piranha-filled pool below and will cackle wildly like (Bond villain) Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Who said I wasn't a ham?"
The episode is set to air in the U.K. later this year (12).