So you think you have freedom of speech?
What is the law on free speech?
Freedom of expression
“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.” but and the most important part “the exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”
Moreover, it is covered legally under the Race Relations Act 1968 wherein “a person discriminates against another if on the ground of colour, race or ethnic or national origins he treats that other, in any situation to which section 2, 3, 4 or 5 below applies, less favourably than he treats or would treat other persons….It is hereby declared that for those purposes segregating a person from other persons on any of those grounds is treating him less favourably than they are treated.
2) Provision of goods, facilities and services, 3) Employment, 4) Trade unions, and employers’ and trade organisations, 5) Housing accommodation, and business and other premises, 6) Advertisements and notices.
Just as in the definition of racism not to “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis particular religion, colour, race.
Some people refer to the Magna Carta, which is still cited in the courts of the UK, but often as little more than a historical fact, symbolic, although in statute, most Articles have been repealed; alongside the Petition of Rights 1628, the Bill of Rights 1689, the Act of Settlement 1701. Personal freedom is one of the oldest principles of English law. Lady Justice Arden, giving judgment in 2001 said “The right to liberty of the person is a fundamental right”. Regarded since at least the time of the Magna Carta (Clause 39) it is reflected within the European Convention on Human Rights Act, Article 9.
But Personal Freedom is NOT Freedom of Speech. Is Freedom of Speech not a fundamental right?
These documents are regarded as important Constitutional instruments albeit there is no written Constitution in the U.K, but nowhere does it mention the right to free speech apart from the Bill of Rights 1689. In this statue, it does mention Freedom of Speech but that ‘the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament.”
So MPs within Parliament can freely speak without fear of retribution by impeachment or being dragged to court for defamation. However, perhaps Lord Hain in November, 2018 took this too far when he used parliamentary privilege to name Sir Phillip Green as the businessman at the centre of a legal action about harassment. It may be a powerful tool for correcting wrongs in society, for speaking freely without consequence, but with it surely comes great responsibility? Just as the people of the U.K. can freely express themselves, they too do so but with rules and responsibilities.
However, today people are prevented from using certain language purely on the belief that it is wrong. Such things as wishing someone a Merry Christmas, it was thought was racist and better to say Happy Holidays or Seasonal Greetings albeit the U.K. is a Christian country; Christianity being part of the fabric of our culture and history. Blackboard changed to whiteboard; gay which originally meant happy; Chocolate Egg instead of Easter Egg; now it’s pronouns he/she/they!
But where in the statutes does it say its law to not use the original word or a word that you feel sums up exactly what you are trying to convey? Where is the law that states an individual has the right to be called her/him/he/they and that if you do not comply, you are in the wrong? Is it illegal to say these words? Woke, cancel culture, etc. where do these all come from, if not from censorship? You use the wrong word, they cry ‘I’m insulted!’. And?
It is similar to just a while ago, if anyone wanted to talk about immigration into the U.K., they were shouted down as ‘racists’, purely to stop the conversation from happening. It’s pure and simple. It’s censorship.
Of course, any decent person would not wish to insult or hurt anyone by the use of their language in a normal manner but it would seem today it is very one-sided. We recently had this ‘movement’ Black Lives Matter – the numerous ‘eradicate whites’, ‘white supremacy’, ‘whites are unconsciously racist’ that were chanted out over social media. If the theory definition of racism is “the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another”, then why have these tweets/posts be allowed without consequences? Why have they not be condemned for their actions? Their speech? Their insults? Their racist comments?
In 2012, British Comedian and Actor, Rowan Atkinson campaigned for the reforming of Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. At the launch of the Campaign, he said “The clear problem with the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism is easily construed as insult. Ridicule is easily construed as insult. Sarcasm, unfavourable comparison, merely stating an alternative point of view can be interpreted as insult.” He went on to warn against “The New Intolerance” stalking the nation and called for “more speech” to combat the problem and preserve a robust society, part and parcel of which is the right to express views which some may find uncomfortable.
Their Campaign was a victory and the Reform Section 5 succeeded in its aim to amend and the change is now incorporated in Section 57 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which came into force on 1st February, 2014. (http://reformsection5.org.uk/). Here is his speech in full https://www.facebook.com/defendfreespeech/videos/in-full-rowan-atkinson-on-free-speech/1787845761294885/
“Censoriousness of the most intimidating kind” – he is spot on.
Not so long ago, I was attempting to reverse my car into a space on the side of the road, when a black gentleman came along and believed I was ‘preventing him from moving forward with his car’, which I suppose, in reality, I was. But most people just sit patiently awaiting the person to finish parking. As I got out of the car and onto the street, he shouted out “you white whore!” Was that an insult? Yes. Was it racist? I reckon so. Did it affect and insult me? No. I found it funny and retorted, ‘What I do at the weekends, is none of your business!”. I hasten to add, he was totally stumped for words and I think a bit embarrassed as other passers-by laughed! We have to realise that sometimes being ‘insulted’ isn’t so bad. The worst I have ever had is from a white gentleman who, annoyed by myself and my disabled son, said ‘people like you should be dead!’. Did I call for the police? No. Was I upset? Hell, yes. Did I scream ‘I’m offended! Take him to the tower!’ No, just replied ‘Have you ever heard of the saying, there for the grace of God go I?” That was enough.
What I’m trying to say is, to be insulted won’t harm you; it might annoy or anger you, but it won’t hurt you. You have to learn to be mature. Does the other person need to be reprimanded? No, it’s their opinion. If we are to have the right of freedom of expression, then one person’s right is subject to another’s right.
But what we cannot allow to happen is ‘censorship’ and this new culture of ‘oh you can’t say that now’.