Martina Navratilova speaks out

REUTERS

Nine-time Wimbledon singles champion Martina Navratilova has blasted what she sees as censorship in the United States over radio stations not giving airplay to anti-war bands.

The 46-year-old Navratilova, veteran tennis player, said the issue involved respect for freedom of speech.

Navratilova made her comments after being asked for her views on fans who burnt records by country music queens The Dixie Chicks after the group criticised US President George W. Bush's stance over Iraq.

The Texan band suffered a public backlash after lead singer Natalie Maines criticised Bush's push for war with Iraq during a recent concert in London. Maines told the audience the band were "ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas."

The comments sparked fury and some US fans demanded radio stations boycott the group's records saying the band were unpatriotic. Navratilova, born in the old communist Czechoslovakia but now a naturalised American, said the issue possibly cut both ways — but stressed freedom of speech was paramount in a democracy.