Jade Jackman: An act against knowledge and thought

This is the fourth of a series of posts written by members of Index on Censorship’s youth advisory board.

Members of the board were asked to write a blog discussing one free speech issue in their country. The resulting posts exhibit a range of challenges to freedom of expression globally, from UK crackdowns on speakers in universities, to Indian criminal defamation law, to the South African Film Board’s newly published guidelines.

On 12 February 2015, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act became law in the UK. If the fact that it is the seventh counter-terrorism bill in 14 years wasn’t enough to demonstrate the creep of governmental control, part five of the new legislation poses a direct and disturbing threat not just to freedom of expression but to knowledge and thought as well.

Part five of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act places a statutory duty on public authorities to prevent terrorism. Under this remit falls schools and universities; places that used to be woven with the notion of free thought. The directions contained in the statute are unclear and gives universities the right to ban, exclude and prevent discussions that certain officials deem to incite radicalisation.

However, freedom of academic thought or discussion is not even the sole concern. London School of Economics Student Union’s community and welfare officer Aysha said: “Students who go to support services will now not be entitled to confidentiality under the new act if that person is deemed a ‘threat’, which is incredibly racialised.” In short, there is the potential that students would be unable to voice personal concerns, or the need for support, due to stereotypes that this act will enforce.

Jade Jackman, UK

Harsh Ghildiyal: Defamation is not a crime
Tom Carter: No-platforming Nigel
Matthew Brown: Spying on NGOs a step too far
About the Index on Censorship youth advisory board
Facebook discussion: no-platforming of speakers at universities