Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Quote of the day 6th December 2017

"It is one of the most worrying features of the modern world that free speech is coming under attack – even in societies that claim to be liberal and tolerant.

So far in 2017 there have been 51 journalists murdered simply for doing their job, and 181 have been jailed."

"Free speech is an integral part of a free society. We believe that a free press is not only morally right; without a free press any society will eventually suffer from corruption and economic decay."

(Boris Johnson, from an article in the Sun newspaper.)


Jim said...

The more Liberal and Tolerant the worse it is in some cases. Look at Universities where there is a so called "extreme right wing" speaker. Often its just someone who is concerned about immigration.
The Labour party considers itself to be extreemly Liberal and Tolerant, yet wont even share a platform with the BNP.
Its not that I agree with the BNP on pretty much anything, but hey they have a right to make a case.

I just think its far more sporting to let everyone state their case (which is after all their right), I will listen to it, and then tell them why I disagree with it. (if i do) if i agree i will tell them that too.

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as 'a right' to free speech in the UK.

Chris Whiteside said...

Jim - I agree with you 100%

To the anonymous poster - it's not as simple as that.

The protection given to free speech by the law in this country is nothing like as strong as the protection in the first amendment to the US constitution, and there is not an ABSOLUTE right to free speech, but the law is intended to give, and to an extent does give, some protection to free speech, within specified qualifications - e.g. you cannot incite violence or racial hatred, and if you slander someone they can sue you.

When people like me are taking care to speak very precisely on the subject we usually say we support "free speech within the law."

The literal meaning of this is that no private citizen should try to put more constraints on free speech than the law does, but almost everyone who uses the expression actually means that they want as much freedom of speech as is permissible without obviously criminal actions like encouraging people to riot or murder.

Most people who genuinely support free speech, as opposed to paying lip service to it, do recognise that the law can indeed limit free speech more than we would wish, and that's why I supported the successful "Feel free to insult me" campaign to reform Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act so that it is no longer illegal to insult someone.

Of course, one ironic consequence of that is that because of the campaign I supported, the people who shouted things like "Tory Scum" at me on my way into the last few Conservative conferences were no longer breaking the law as long as they refrained from violence and intimidation, but that was a price worth paying/

I sometimes toy with the idea that Britain should have a written constitution and one of the main benefits is that much more legal protection of the right to free speech could be written into it, but in the past I have usually concluded that the benefits of a more flexible system of government outweigh the advantages of a written constitution.

I must confess that the possibility of a government with Jeremy Corbyn as PM is making me consider changing my mind on this issue.