The right of free speech has been extolled this week as a key feature of Western societies that must be protected from the ‘fifth column of Islam’- but it is this disgusting rhetoric that is leading us down a quandary towards a breakdown of our tolerant societies.
As everyone debates whether we should offend or not, I feel that most do not seem realise what the government wants to do regardless of either outcome, and while the below tweet is a sardonic parody, it does well to summarise current government policy.
Meeting security chiefs to discuss increasing email and phone intercept protocols before heading to France to support free speech.
— Iain Duncan Smith MP (@IDS_MP) January 10, 2015
The real facts behind ‘increasing email and phone intercept protocols’
More prudently and trustingly, we suppose that these protocols are directed at those who will incite crime and terror within our democracies. However, we can never know this. We can never know who the ‘wrong’ people are because the Government will never reveal data on who they oversee and whether interceptions actually lead to thwarted crimes. Why the increase of these powers threatens us has been outlined by Edward Snowden* in his many interviews and Glenn Greenwald’s TED talk **
More important is how their predictions are being realised in the current Conservative’s plans for their next Government. In October 2014 at the party conference, the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, presented plans that they would scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, framing it as a cure to the the woe that mass immigration has become in the UK.
But there is more to the HRA than voters may realise, as it contains specific laws that protect us in ways that most of us don’t even know. Particularly, the right to privacy and right to free speech. Under the HRA, it is permissible to have minimal surveillance of individuals with evidence of their intent to spread hate, which I find acceptable, but without the HRA, there would be no legal guidance as to what the Government could or couldn’t do – and banning social networks would be a real possibility.
Abolishing the HRA would put us in the club with Belarus, the only other country in the EU that didn’t sign up to the HRA, where photos or videos including the back of their leader’s head are banned (yes, really), and Kazakhstan, where authorities are ‘cracking down on free speech and dissent through misuse of overly broad laws,’ according to the Human Rights Watch. 3 years ago, the previous Attorney General for England and Wales warned us of this.
We suppose that our Government has a better understanding of rights, as David Cameron said, we wrote the Magna Carta. But judging from their election pledges, this does not seem to be the case***. It was suggested that human rights will only be used in the most important, and not ‘trivial’ cases. I wait in wonder as to the Government’s definition of ‘trivial’ cases involving human rights.
With rights like these, no one can allow the Conservatives to make good on their plans, because if we do, it will be to the detriment of everyone’s rights, including free speech, in Britain.
‘Support free speech’
Therefore you see why we must remain vigilant in the face of assertions that we will be ‘protected.’ You could lose your Facebook page, for goodness sake – think of how much time and effort you put into your overexaggerated online identity wasted!
Seriously though, in banning methods of communication, our government would actually be limiting our free speech and not protecting it – which is what this whole fuss has been made to be about.
This is what I am most concerned about: the easiness with which we seem to accept the idea it is justifiable to increase surveillance to increase protection of free speech and the free press. It does not compute with me how threatening our civil liberties can attempt to protect civil liberties. It is reminiscent of Orwellian doublethink.
Yet this is the rhetoric. Don’t let them make you believe it is like this.
– Let’s get one thing straight here, rights are not liberal. Rights are by their definition for everyone and encompass all to protect us from stupid suggestions like ones made in this comment.
Then, how should we respond to terrorism?
Parliament’s own select committee on state surveillance, made of of the most educated legal scholars and experienced MPs and civil servants in Britain, sees the importance in some targeted surveillance, and under the jurisdiction of the HRA. I take from the minutes:
134…The Government should provide clear and publicly available guidance as to the legal meanings of necessity and proportionality. We recommend that a complaints procedure be established by the Government and that, where appropriate, legal aid should be made available for Article 8 claims.137. The Government should consider expanding the remit of the Information Commissioner to include responsibility for monitoring the effects of government and private surveillance practices on the rights of the public at large under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
***For more: https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/news/latest-news/legally-illiterate