Press Office

Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

Press Release

Aung San Suu Kyi and Eliza Manningham-Buller to give BBC Radio 4's 2011 Reith Lectures

This year's annual BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures will be delivered by two speakers – Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and former Director-General of MI5, Baroness Manningham-Buller. They will be broadcast on Radio 4 in June and September, respectively.

The 2011 Reith Lectures, entitled Securing Freedom, arise out of an extraordinary period of global convulsion. Aung San Suu Kyi's lectures from Burma will focus on the struggle for democracy inside an authoritarian regime. Back in the UK, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Eliza Manningham-Buller discusses how, once secured, a country maintains its freedom.

Gwyneth Williams, Controller, BBC Radio 4 says: "This Reith Lecture series engages with some of the currents arising from a period of exceptional international political and economic turmoil. I am thrilled to have as our 2011 Reith lecturers Aung San Suu Kyi addressing the themes of dissent and liberty and Eliza Manningham-Buller who, on the 10th anniversary, will reflect on 9/11 and intelligence and foreign policy since. These are two very different sides of a familiar story – the struggle for liberty and its defence."

Aung San Suu Kyi's two lectures have been recorded in Burma and will be played to public audiences later this month. Eliza Manningham-Buller will give three lectures – two from London and one from Leeds.

In her first lecture, Aung San Suu Kyi examines the idea of dissent, in the context of Burma. In the second, she explores how freedom can be won and what it really means, with reference to events in the Middle East. Of the Reith Lectures she said: "To be speaking to you through the BBC has a very special meaning for me. It means that once again I am officially a free person.

"When I was officially 'unfree', that is to say when I was under house arrest, it was the BBC that spoke to me – I listened. But that listening also gave me a kind of freedom, the freedom of reaching out to other human minds, of course it was not the same as a personal exchange but it was a form of human contact.

"The freedom to make contact with other human beings with whom you may wish to share your thoughts and your hopes, your laughter and at times even your anger and indignation, is a right that should never be violated.

"Even though I cannot be with you in person, I am so grateful for this opportunity to exercise my right to human contact by sharing with you my thoughts on what freedom means to me and others across the world who are still in the sad state of what I would call ‘unfreedom'."

In the 1990 Burmese election, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a landslide victory, but she then spent nearly 15 of the next 20 years under house arrest. On 13 November 2010, she was released. Aung San Suu Kyi received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

To mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Eliza Manningham-Buller offers a unique perspective on the event, its impact on the world and the repercussions from it. She considers the role of security intelligence and reflects more broadly on the threats to freedom and the means of countering them.

Eliza Manningham-Buller was Director General of MI5, the British Security Service, from October 2002 until her retirement in April 2007. She led the organisation through substantial change in the wake of 9/11 and the growing threat from Al-Qaeda. Under her leadership MI5 doubled in size and altered its approach to the professional development of staff with the establishment of a training academy.

Baroness Manningham-Buller said: "I am honoured to share this year's Reith Lecture series with Aung San Suu Kyi whose selfless courage on behalf of Burma's freedom should remind us not to take our own freedoms for granted."

Earlier in her career, Eliza Manningham-Buller headed up the service's investigation into the Lockerbie bombing. She served in Washington during the first Gulf war before returning to MI5 to establish its intelligence effort against the Provisional IRA in mainland Britain. She joined the board and assumed lead responsibility for work on Irish terrorism, surveillance, technical collection, finance and IT before becoming Deputy Director General in charge of intelligence operations.

To sign up for the podcast go to: bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/reith.

Follow @BBC_Reith on Twitter to find out more about this year's lectures and share thoughts by using "#Reith".

Notes to Editors

Aung San Suu Kyi's lectures were recorded in Burma this week and will be broadcast on Radio 4 at 9am on 28 June and 5 July, chaired by Sue Lawley. They will be played to audiences at two events and the public can apply for tickets on the website bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/tickets/.

Eliza Manningham-Buller's Reith Lectures will be broadcast at 9am on 6, 13 and 20 September, chaired by Sue Lawley.

The Reith Lectures will broadcast on BBC World Service on Tuesday 28 June at 1100-1200 GMT and 5 July 11-12.00 GMT.

John Reith, the BBC's first Director-General, maintained that broadcasting should be a public service which enriches the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. It is in this spirit that the BBC each year invites a leading figure to deliver a series of lectures on radio. The aim is to advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest.

SD

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