Tag Archives: free speech

Culture legislation review prompts question: was Dorries allowed to do whatever she wanted?

Michelle Donelan: this is the only image of her that This Writer could find, in which she didn’t have an enormous, daft grin all over her face.

New Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan is reviewing plans by her forerunner Nadine Dorries to privatise Channel 4 and scrap the BBC licence fee, and also the proposed Online Harms Bill.

Doesn’t this suggest that those plans were not widely supported by the Tory Party and that Dorries was put at the top of that department by Boris Johnson to do nothing more than distract attention away from him?

Also being revisited are provisions around “legal but harmful” speech in the Online Harms legislation.

The review of Channel 4 comes amid criticisms that privatising the channel would harm the future of many TV production companies at a time when new prime minister Liz Truss wants to create growth. The two policies would therefore appear to contradict each other.

With the BBC, Ms Donelan has admitted being sceptical about the viability of the licence fee. But she has said that coverage of the Queen’s funeral was excellent – and the kind of thing that streaming services could not provide.

Source: Ministers to review Channel 4 privatisation and scrapping of BBC licence fee

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‘It is not the function of the police to patrol our minds’ – Peter Hitchens on free speech

Here’s an interview that is well worth watching as right-wing columnist Peter Hitchens attacks the right-wing behaviour of UK police after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

That’s correct – he’s a right-winger but he absolutely opposes the arrest of people who were merely exercising their right to free speech by calling for the end of the monarchy.

His comments on attempts to reverse the relationship between the state and the individual are particularly interesting.

And he bemoans the failure to understand how authority is exercised in a free country – by consent. Doesn’t that indicate that the UK under the current crop of Tories isn’t free?

Also interesting is his comment on the way people have started to attack others – not on the basis of what those others have said, but on what they believe those others to have said (or what they can get others to believe).

The common thread? Intolerance of dissent.

Here’s the clip:

We’re living in dangerous times for media like This Site.

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Freedom of speech row after police start arresting anti-monarchy protesters

Arrested for expressing an opinion: how can the UK still be said to be a nation that supports free speech if the police do this?

Heavy-handed policing has triggered a debate on freedom of expression after police forces around the UK started arresting people who were expressing their free-speech right to call for the end of the monarchy after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

I wrote about this previously, but more developments have taken place. Watch this:

Now watch this:

I think Phil is mistaken; the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act is what allows the rozzers to cart peaceful protesters away – or at least, that is what I understand they are using.

The Act allows them to remove protesters who cause a disturbance or who are “annoying” others.

But is it really annoying people when someone holds up a sign saying they don’t want a monarchy here any more?

The person who shouted, “Who elected you?” at an event calls the legislation into question because it was possible for proceedings to carry on regardless and no hate speech was involved.

The police reaction does not reflect the general feeling of society – and the surprising aspect of this is that it is a feeling that is held by both left- and right-wingers.

Phil reckons the police may be acting under ancient laws that haven’t fallen off the statute books – but these would be trumped by more recent legislation; the Public Order Act doesn’t cover what’s been done here as there has been no threatening behaviour.

And there are very clear and obvious questions to be answered:

How do people express views like opposition to the monarchy – and get a debate on it – if any such expression is prohibited by our law guardians? And how can the UK government still claim that this is a nation that honours free speech if this is happening?

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Truss vows to clamp down on free speech after climate activists interrupt her

In Liz we DON’T Truss (it’s a play on her campaign slogan, which is itself a play on words): she’ll end your right to free speech, and to campaign for fair pay and decent working conditions.

Tory leadership contender Liz Truss vowed to clamp down on free speech and protest after being interrupted by critics of her police on climate change.

Her speech at a hustings in the Winter Gardens at Eastbourne was halted when six activists from Green New Deal Rising loudly criticised her:

In response, Truss said: “Can I just say a few words on the militant people who try and disrupt our country, and who try and disrupt our democratic process, and who try and disrupt our essential services?

“I would legislate immediately to make sure that we are standing up to militant trade unions who stop ordinary commuters getting into work, and I would legislate to protect our essential services.

“And I will make sure that militant activists such as Extinction Rebellion are not able to disrupt ordinary people who work hard and do the right thing and go into work.”

If you think that sounds good, think again.

Truss was saying she would remove your right to free speech and rescind your right to demand acceptable pay and benefits at work.

You may be happy that other people will be stopped from disrupting your day, but will you be as happy when you have a serious issue of your own and get arrested for trying to raise it?

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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QC criticises IHRA definition of anti-Semitism as ‘not fit for purpose’

“A particular problem with the IHRA definition is that it is likely in practice to chill free speech, by raising expectations of pro-Israeli groups that they can successfully object to legitimate criticism of Israel and correspondingly arouse fears in NGO’s and student bodies that they will have events banned, or else will have to incur considerable expense to protect them by taking legal action. Either way, they may not organise such events.”

The definition of antisemitism adopted by the government is not fit for the purpose of decision making, declares Geoffrey Robertson QC in an opinion published today.

The opinion, which was produced to advise the Palestinian Return Centre, states that the definition does not cover the most insidious forms of hostility to Jewish people and the looseness of the definition is liable to chill legitimate criticisms of the state of Israel and coverage of human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Mr Robertson, an expert on freedom of speech and human rights, who has lectured on genocide at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has criticised Theresa May for adopting a definition which was not intended to be binding and which was not drafted as a comprehensible definition. By pivoting on expression that arouses hatred (a “very strong word”) it does not cover speech that arouses hostility, or which “politely spreads the poison of prejudice” against Jews as a race. He evinces surprise that Jewish organisations are advocating acceptance of the full definition by the Labour Party and other organisations have not realised that it fails to protect Jews from many prevalent kinds of antisemitism.

Source: Eminent QC Criticises IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism as “Not fit for purpose” in Opinion Published Today

Visit our JustGiving page to help Vox Political’s Mike Sivier fight anti-Semitism libels in court


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Sign our petition to kill Osborne’s ‘tax statement’ propaganda sheet

141104taxleaflet2

[Image: Daily Mirror.]

Remember when the Transparency of Lobbying, Third-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act (otherwise known as the Gagging Act) was passed, in January this year? Vox Political warned that it marked the end of free speech and free protest in the UK.

The article showed that the new law means you may no longer link up with others to protest government actions in any meaningful way – as such action may breach Liberal Democrat and Tory government-imposed spending limits. Your personal complaints will be deemed unrepresentative of the people.

In that article, this blog asked why the government has launched its attack on free speech and free protest, and suggested the following: Perhaps it wants to control the information you receive, on which you base your voting intentions?

This week we received confirmation of that theory – or at least, some of us did.

The ‘tax statements’ being sent out to Income Taxpayers by the Treasury – on the orders of George Osborne – are nothing less than party political electioneering, being carried out using those taxpayers’ own money rather than the Tory Party’s funds. The leaflet is worded in a very carefully-chosen way that betrays a clear intention to mislead readers – most particularly about the amount of our Income Tax that is spent on ‘welfare’.

To illustrate the extent of the problem: We cannot say this is the same as social security, as – according to the terms of the leaflet – it isn’t. Apparently a quarter of our money is spent on ‘welfare’, which is then broken down into bizarre categories like ‘social protection’ – including, alongside social security, personal care services which nobody has defined as ‘welfare’ until know, and the pensions of retired mandarins, colonels and lowlier public servants who will be appalled to hear their hard-earned retirement provision re-labelled as ‘welfare’, according to The Guardian‘s editorial on the subject. David Cameron’s pension would be defined as ‘welfare’, according to this categorisation.

Meanwhile, state pensions have been defined as being paid from an entirely different source (they aren’t), in order to safeguard the Grey vote from the indignation that – clearly – this piece of politically-prompted propaganda is intended to stoke.

The fact is that – as the Mirror points out – Income Taxpayers put a lot more than 12p in every pound towards pensions, and a lot less than 24p in every pound towards working-age benefits.

Here are another couple of tricks – possibly the nastiest of the lot: Firstly, the leaflet does not make it clear that ‘welfare’ payments are made to people who have a right to them “because of family or medical circumstance, or indeed a record of national insurance contributions”. The impression foisted on the reader is of “unearned handouts to the poor”, according to the Guardian editorial.

Secondly, the leaflet as a whole does not mention the contribution of VAT payments to the national purse. This is because the government has cut Income Tax (irrationally – it has a huge deficit and debt to pay off but has reduced its own income). The thinking behind this is that people will think they have been allowed to keep more of the money they have earned. But the same government has increased VAT, meaning that – in fact – people are being taxed more heavily!

What is the intended result of all this deception? It is as Vox Political described, back in January:

“You would be led to believe that the governments policies are working, exactly the way the government says they are working.

“You would not have any reason to believe that the government is lying to you on a daily basis.

“You would be tranquillised.

“Anaesthetised.

“Compliant.”

What a relief that nobody believes that filthy liar Osborne – even his own backbenchers!

This is how they see him – offering empty promises as a ‘carrot’ to encourage voters to support the Tories.

Osborne’s behaviour is so appalling that this blog has started a petition, calling on the government to withdraw these propaganda sheets that pretend to be official government information – and apologise for ever releasing them in the first place.

It is on the Change.org website, please sign it by clicking here.

Other blogs on the ‘tax summaries’ are available from Virtual Gherkin and Same Difference.

We must not allow this abuse of public authority – and public funds – to take place.

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UK government shuts down free speech with threats of jail (tabloid newspapers exempted) – Pride’s Purge

When the government ministers or members of the establishment talk about free speech, they don’t mean free speech for plebs like you and me, writes Tom Pride.

As an illustration of this, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has just announced 2 year jail sentences for anyone found to have been dishing out abuse on social media.

But the law will not apply to tabloid newspapers, who dish out abuse on a regular basis – sometimes with tragic consequences?

If the government thinks dishing out abuse online should result in jail, fair enough. But the laws must also apply to newspaper barons too.

Please read the rest of the article, which includes details of how the Coalition government is rubbing the new rules in our faces, on Pride’s Purge.

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Catastrophic Coalition lies: Civil liberties

zcoalitionfailcivil

The title of this series of articles is supposed to be ‘Great Coalition Failures’ – but even a cursory examination of its record on today’s subject reveals that it is not adequate to the depth of the betrayal that is evident.

Considering the oppressive behaviour of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration in destroying British citizens’ freedoms, one can only conclude that David Cameron, Nick Clegg and all their representatives actively set out to deceive the British public on the subject of:

3. CIVIL LIBERTIES

We will be strong in defence of freedom. The Government believes that the British state has become too authoritarian, and that over the past decade it has abused and eroded fundamental human freedoms and historic civil liberties. We need to restore the rights of individuals in the face of encroaching state power, in keeping with Britain’s tradition of freedom and fairness [In the light of the Coalition’s record, this can only be seen as a very sick in-joke for the benefit of the writers].

  • We will implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties and roll back state intrusion [It seems state intrusion in our lives has never been higher].
  • We will introduce a Freedom Bill [This happened. It was a Nick Clegg idea and includes measures mentioned elsewhere on this list. Of the others, the proposed restrictions on police stop-and-search powers seem laughable, following the furore over the stopping and searching of people during the ‘racist advertising van’ debacle of 2013 – because they looked foreign].
  • We will scrap the ID card scheme, the National Identity register and the ContactPoint database, and halt the next generation of biometric passports.
  • We will outlaw the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission [This is in the Protection of Freedoms Act].
  • We will extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency [Attempts to secure up-to-date figures on the number of benefit claimants who have died as a result of government ‘reforms’ shows that the Coalition has made a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act. For a run-down of the ways in which government departments may dodge their responsibilities, see this article].
  • We will adopt the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database [DNA database protections are in the Protection of Freedoms Act].
  • We will protect historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury [A lie. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have started ‘secret’ trials, in which a person can be convicted without ever knowing the offence of which they are accused, seeing any evidence or having any chance to mount a defence against it].
  • We will restore rights to non-violent protest [This has not happened. It seems clear that the response to any such street protest that our current government dislikes will involve the employment of water cannons. Free speech is covered by changes in the libel laws that protect outsourced government services from criticism, and then there is the Gagging and Blacklisting Act, which was supposed to be about government lobbyists but became a tool of repression].
  • We will review libel laws to protect freedom of speech [Conservatives blocked changes that would force private companies to show financial damage before being able to sue others for libel. This means government-owned prisons may be criticised without fear of legal action but privately-run prisons cannot. With so many government services being outsourced or sold off, this effectively neuters any relaxation of libel law as far as criticism of the government itself is concerned].
  • We will introduce safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation [This is in the Protection of Freedoms Act].
  • We will further regulate CCTV [This is in the Protection of Freedoms Act].
  • We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason [Depending on your point of view, this is a lie. What constitutes “good reason”? The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act tramples all over any definition].
  • We will introduce a new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.
  • We will establish a Commission to investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in British law, and protects and extends British liberties. We will seek to promote a better understanding of the true scope of these obligations and liberties [This is an outright lie. The Bill of Rights, as proposed in recent weeks, will remove obligations that were placed on us by the ECHR, and lay the British people open to abuses of their civil liberties on a scale not seen for many years. The stated desire to promote a better understanding of civil obligations and liberties may be discounted as it is not in the government’s interest to tell people about freedoms that are being legislated away from them].

140129freespeech1

The verdict: The Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition has overseen the most oppressive clampdown on British citizens’ civil liberties for decades. Freedoms that we had four years ago are now distant memories. Freedom of speech – gone. Freedom of association – gone. Freedom to join a trade union – heavily monitored, with a threat of blacklisting. Our telephone conversations and Internet communications are monitored. We can be arrested, charged, tried and imprisoned without ever knowing why or seeing any evidence against us.

Meanwhile, the government has never been so well-protected against criticism. Government departments have an arsenal of excuses to protect themselves from having to answer Freedom of Information Requests, so you can’t find out what they are doing or the consequences of their actions. Privatised and outsourced government services are immune to criticism as they may sue any critic for libel.

Your freedoms have been removed and your government is more authoritarian than ever. If the Conservatives are elected next year, you are likely to lose the few human rights that remain.

You didn’t vote for any of this.

Does that offer you much consolation?

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Black Triangle Website Back Online After Daily Mail Has It Shut Down – Same Difference

77267264_murphy_evidence1

The Daily Mail was successful in shutting down the Black Triangle Campaign website by serving the disability campaign a ‘cease and desist’ letter from their lawyers”, according to the Same Difference blog.

“The Daily Mail ran a story about “NC” [anonymised by request on June 15, 2020], claiming that she works four jobs/35 hours per week, and is £400 a month worse off than she would be if she received disability benefit. Online Bloggers found inconsistencies about this report and blogged about it.

“After writing a blog on this issue, Black Triangle received an email from their hosting company, Orange, informing them that their website is suspended until  “… any pages referring to NC the person. This is a breach of privacy laws displaying photos without permission. Your account is suspended until you make contact and change this.”

“With the website suspended, Black Triangle simply could NOT gain access to their website to edit any of their website.  Since then, it has been made clear to BlackTriangle that Orange – their hosting company – has received a ‘cease and desist’ letter from the lawyers involved in this case.

“Black Triangle’s website has now back online after Orange allowed access to the Black Triangle webmaster to remove the offending article but this shows how low the right-winged press will go to continue their attacks on the disabled community in the UK.”

Anyone concerned with free speech should be furious about this. Just because the Daily Mail has money and influence with Orange, it was able to silence another news source that was exercising its right to provide a fair comment on an issue.

It seems that Black Triangle had found inaccuracies in the Daily Mail story, which indicates that the site was right to criticise the ‘newspaper’ in its article.

The Mail habitually escapes with many infringements of Press Complaints Commission rules, apparently because the PCC is dominated by Daily Mail personnel – Paul Dacre, the Mail’s editor, sits on the PressBoF committee that dominates the PCC and also chairs the Editors’ Code Committee. Meanwhile, one of the three directors of the company that owns both the PCC and its planned successor, IPSO, is Peter Wright, editor emeritus at the Mail group.

A large amount of effort goes into making the Mail look respectable, every day.

What does it have to hide?

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More lies – or perhaps merely stupidity – from UKIP

Bizarrely, this is one instance of UKIP getting something right: The image by UKIP's youth branch, Young Independence, makes it clear that the party is opposed by the NUS. There is no mention of a ban.

Bizarrely, this is one instance of UKIP getting something right: The image by UKIP’s youth branch, Young Independence, makes it clear that the party is opposed by the NUS. There is no mention of a ban.

Our friends at UKIP have been at it again.

What follows is mainly from the A Liberal Life blog, detailing UKIP’s attempt to claim the National Union of Students voted to ban the party from standing for election within that organisation, when in fact all the union did was declare that it formally opposed UKIP.

Daniel Stevens, NUS International Students’ Officer, explained the decision on the NUS website. He said UKIP made the arrival of Romania and Bulgaria in the European Union a central focus of its 2013 election campaign, “using fear, misinformation and xenophobic language. They claimed the move would [lead] to an influx of 350,000 to 400,000 Romanians and Bulgarians a year, claimed that it would have an enormous impact on public services and went as far as to say it would lead to a ‘gateway for organised crime’… I have met Romanian students at UK universities and colleges who have been absolutely demoralised in the way their country has been stereotyped and portrayed by UKIP. One student went as far as to say that they now felt ashamed to be Romanian in Britain. There is something fundamentally wrong and blatantly xenophobic about a party that is willing to demonise and stereotype an entire country for its own political devices.”

Moving on to immigration, he pointed out that the NUS represents more than half a million international students, and that he spoke to members of that group every week “who are incredibly fearful of what UKIP represents, and I don’t blame them. Along with UKIP’s entire manifesto, its policies on immigration are currently undergoing a review. Whilst it stresses that it wants a non-discriminatory immigration policy, there is no indication of what that might look like. What’s clear is that UKIP [is] content to use xenophobic language to get their point across. Its previous manifesto stated that ‘multiculturalism has split our society’ and ‘our traditional values have been undermined’. Its new poster strongly implies that 26 million unemployed Europeans are after British jobs.  UKIP’s entire campaign is based on immigration policies. The language it uses is an ‘us vs them’ mentality. Farage has suggested that parts of the country have been ‘taken over’ by foreigners and claiming that this has come at a ‘financial’ and ‘social price’.  UKIP [has] repeatedly refused to create policies, or in fact a campaign, based on verified evidence of the impact of immigration. Instead [it uses] negative buzz-words that play on people’s emotions to drive an agenda of division.”

Finally, he pointed to what he called UKIP’s “problematic membership”. He stated: “Whilst UKIP will defend itself as not being racist, almost each week brings another case of a party member standing for a position that harbours racist, islamophobic, disablist or homophobic views”. For example:

• The star of UKIP’s TV ad dismissed Ed Miliband as “a Pole,” tweeted islamophobic messages and said Africans should be left “to kill themselves.”
• A UKIP candidate called for Lenry Henry to “emigrate to a black country.”
• An MEP called for British Muslims to sign a non-violence charter.
• A UKIP candidate in Enfield sent messages saying gay marriage sickens people and made misogynistic comments about a female councillor.
• A UKIP candidate in Leeds listed Nazi war criminals as individuals who inspire him.

“These examples are just from a two week period.”

He concluded that some had claimed that NUS passing policy that opposed UKIP contravened free speech. “On the contrary. Students across the country have democratically voted to hold UKIP accountable [for] its actions and views,” he stated. “We must always be suspicious and vigilant against the politics of fear and any political party that is willing to use xenophobia to gain political influence.”

He made it clear that if anyone else from UKIP wanted to run for office in the NUS next year, they would still be entitled to do so.

Now you know the background, let’s get back to the dodgy dealings on A Liberal Life, where we are told that yesterday (August 3), UKIP “community spokesperson” Suzanne Evans tweeted that the NUS was a “leftie dictatorship” for “not allowing UKIP candidates to stand for election”.

Faced with the fact that no such ban exists, the response was, “Debate impossible with LiberalIsland [that’s the author of the blog] – clearly believes it’s fine to ban party that won last nationwide election.”

Then some supporters of this lady jumped in to, well, support her. None of them had an answer to the main point of fact and the best they could manage was a lame “the opposition is equivalent to a ban”.

This is the face of UKIP today. Yr Obdt Srvt has been enjoying (if that’s the word) a debate over UKIP’s opposition to a European Parliament resolution calling on member states to legislate against domestic violence including marital rape. The latest UKIP position is that they were right to oppose the EU resolution because the European Parliament is undemocratic (so does this mean their election win is not valid?) but it would be inconsistent with UKIP’s intent to regain democratic self-government to oppose the Welsh Government’s planned law on the subject.

Apparently the safety of women in the home is of no interest whatever. In fact, the correspondent made this clear by stating: “I suspect that the practicalities of enforcement will largely vitiate a well-intentioned measure. Rape and assault outside the home are not prevented by laws criminalising them.”

Clearly UKIP is perfectly happy to justify its inconsistencies by playing with words.

Hopefully the public can see through that.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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