John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Friday, October 23, 2009
  Freedom of Speech
I think that it is now worth having a look at the wider issues relating to freedom of speech. Freedom of Speech often gets mixed up with the debates about "no platform" and there are lots of subtleties including the issue about the trafigura injunction.

The Lord Chief Justice recently took the view that it was entirely reasonable to have court injunctions that in themselves are secret. This is perhaps the most extreme constraint upon freedom of speech. The whole panoply of state power is used to stop someone saying something and also to stop them saying that they have been prevented from speaking. This has to be the super gag. I think this is in fact unlawful under Article 6. Judgments need to be public. As a minimum orders should be public.

Article IX of the 1688 Bill of Rights ensures that the courts can have no effect on parliament. Parliament may itself decide not to comment on matters which are subjudice, but discretion rests with parliament to discuss even sub judice matters. That is a decision for parliament.

Sadly there are still lawyers who are threatening people with imprisonment for talking to me.

The Information Commissioner recently talked about increasing the penalities for breaches of the data protection act. I am not too sure about this. I am worried that we will move too far towards gagging people. Police officers who abuse the PNC already face committal.

I am a strong believer in Freedom of Speech and would not ban the BNP, nor would I use the criminal law to control what they say ... up to a point.

The point, as usual, is that at which they are trying to stir up hatred. I would not even make Holocaust Denial an offence. It is clearly very offensive, but should not be illegal.

If, however, someone is using words to initiate violence then that is a different issue. It is there where the EDL in their attempts to stir up violence in Birmingham fall. I think the police should have acted before the last exercise although it made it entirely clear that the EDL were looking for violence in their lack of co-operation with the police.

There are rules that apply for freepost and party election broadcasts. Those rules are defined in law and do not take into account what is being promoted. Hence if the BNP satisfy the rules then they are entitled to have the freepost.

We then move into the issue of Question Time and the BNP. Question Time does not have a system of rules. The decisions as to who is allowed to go on are made by the editorial staff. The editorial staff decided to promote the BNP.

I think they were wrong, but would not change the criminal law to stop them doing so - although I have supported the protests.

If we go back to the 1930s and imagine an equivalent of Question Time in Germany. Would it have been reasonable to endorse the National Socialist German Workers Party with their policy of a "final solution" to the issue of Judaism.

I don't think so.

The BNP are quite clearly a national socialist party. They quite clearly have similar approaches to the NSDAP. On their countering the smears section of their website they say:

i. Why do you disapprove of mixed marriages?

We believe in human diversity and in preserving the individuality and identity of all different ethnic groups. It is sad when a unique human genotype becomes extinct – as has happened around the world in the past and is happening today in the Amazon and in New Guinea. While a small number of mixed marriages – or mixed race children – in Britain won’t, in themselves, make any difference, if this is encouraged however as it is at present by politicians and the media then inevitably the traditional British genotype will be endangered in the long-term.

Environmentalists are always keen to preserve unique animal species in the wild, so why shouldn’t the same principle apply to people? We believe that Britain’s proud history of glorious achievements demonstrates that the British genotype is a valuable one and deserves to be preserved.

It has also been shown that mixed race children often suffer from identity problems, as has been pointed out by people such as Trevor Phillips (chairman of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights).


In essence they are saying that there is a problem with having mixed race people. This is nothing different to saying While a small number of jews/homosexuals/etc etc won't ... make any difference

A political party that stands on a principle that certain types of people should not exist stands apart from normal political discourse. Any editor who wishes to give them air time has to in doing so believe that it is reasonable to allow the "oxygen of publicity" to a party who wishes to get rid of a certain type of people.

It does not matter if they are talking about a different issue. At the core of what the BNP stands for is one of the most odious political arguments that is possible. Any journalist who wishes to promote that is not taking a neutral position, but accepting that this is a reasonable argument to make.

It is not a reasonable argument to make which is why I take the view that the BNP should not be afforded a platform from which to peddle their hate.

I, for one, am not going to accept Nazi politics in England. Journalists need to think carefully about what they do. There should not be a law constraining freedom of speech here, but there should be some responsibility shown by the media.

That which the BNP stand for is unacceptable.
 
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