Government plans pose serious risk to free expression
27 May 2015

The new UK government’s plans to tackle extremism and introduce a British bill of rights, as outlined in the Queen’s Speech on 27 May, raise the stakes significantly for freedom of expression in the United Kingdom.

“The government’s plans to introduce a Snoopers’ Charter, introduce new extremism laws and introduce a yet-to-be-determined bill of rights, all present a serious risk to civil liberties in Britain.

“We see no need for the introduction of new legislation in these areas: current laws on incitement to violence and hatred can already be applied to extremist individuals or groups. The new plans won’t stop terrorism, they will simply stifle free speech,” Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg said.

Under the proposed extremism bill, extremists would be banned from TV and stricter controls imposed on what can be said on the internet. The proposed law would be applied to those seeking to undermine vaguely defined “British values”, and is a broad brush that could end up being applied to anyone who simply disagrees with the government.

The government’s plans for the proposed British bill of rights aims to undo the “damaging effects of Labour’s Human Rights Act” of 1998, according to a government briefing pack on the Queen’s Speech. According to The Times, the move against the Human Rights Act will be delayed while the government undertakes a consultation on draft legislation.

Index remains convinced that driving debate underground is not the answer in tackling extremism or terrorism.

2 responses to “Government plans pose serious risk to free expression”

  1. Mike says:

    We have The Bill of Rights already, that of 1689, arising from the Glorious Revolution. Not only did it found our present liberties but it was the inspiration of other revolutions and struggles for freedom down the centuries. It and its descendant documents, Declarations in other countries, have been hated and despised by totalitarian regimes past and present, and most virulently by that nauseating band, the so-called Daesh. We don’t need Cameron and his crew to deface it in any way whatsoever.
    Instead of a blundering attempt to control people’s activity electronically by repressive laws, disguised as supposed adjuncts to the original Bill, the Government needs to bite the bullet and invest heavily in traditional police methods and training, and in traditional, targeted “human espionage”, that is, building up informer networks, infiltration, etc. These are expensive and risky but they often do work, whereas just relying on all-pervasive electronic snooping…well,… Snowden!

  2. Gabriel Glazer says:

    I am sympathetic to your plea against driving debate underground. But what makes Index so certain, apparently, that the jihadis who are inclined or committed to violence to achieve their goals, are also interested in considering contrary views? Is it not a fact in today’s world that such jihadis are intolerant of dissent of any kind? Do they not regard contrary arguments as proof of blasphemy worthy of capital punishment? Do they not behead people to make their point? If their conduct is murderous, why should they not be treated as murderers or potential murderers and be sniffed out wherever their odors are detectable?

    As for democracy, it is not an absolute value. It may have to shift balance for justifiable security reasons. The problem of guarding against misconduct by the guardians remains a continuing challenge-everywhere. Protagonists of security ought not be given a free pass. They should always be subject to independent democratic control—indeed a challenge in itself but not, I suggest, unreasonable in present circumstances.