Don’t Let Free Speech Die

These are the words of Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship.

The ability to express ourselves freely is fundamental to a free society. This includes the freedom to publish, to satarise, to joke, to criticise even when that might cause offence to others, Those who wish to silence free speech must never be allowed to prevail.”


” For those over the years who say they support freedom of expression but with opt outs, or who have argued that freedom of expression doesn’t extend to articles, photographs or cartoons which offend them, it should be made clear that freedom of expression gives everyone the chance to debate opinions, and that right is vital.

You should not be saying things which incite violence or disorder or cause tangible concrete harm to other people. Mere offence or insults don’t satisfy that test.          What is offensive to you may not be to someone else.

 Article 10 Freedom of expression

The right to freedom of expression is crucial in a democracy – information and ideas help to inform political debate and are essential to public accountability and transparency in government. Article 10 gives everyone the right to freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without State interference.                                                                                                                        This includes the right to communicate and to express oneself in any medium, including through words, pictures, images and actions (including through public protest and demonstrations).                                                                                                                                The type of expression protected includes:                                                                                  political expression (including comment on matters of general public interest); artistic expression; and commercial expression, particularly when it also raises matters of legitimate public debate and concern.

For obvious reasons political expression is given particular precedence and protection.                                                                                                                                 Artistic expression – vital for fostering individual fulfilment and the development of ideas – is also robustly protected.                                                                                                               To ensure that free expression and debate is possible, there must be protection for elements of a free press, including protection of journalistic sources.                                   The right to free expression would be meaningless if it only protected certain types of expression – so (subject to certain limitations) the right will protect both popular and unpopular expression, including speech that might shock others.                                     Interferences on free expression usually involve restrictions on publication; penalties for publication (such as criminalising speech or awarding damages); requiring journalists to reveal their sources; imposing disciplinary measures or confiscating material.


Article 10 is a qualified right and as such the right to freedom of expression may be limited.  Article 10 provides that the exercise of this freedom “since it carries with it duties and responsibilities” may be limited as long as the limitation:                                                    is prescribed by law; is necessary and proportionate; and pursues a legitimate aim, namely:

o      the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety;

o      the prevention of disorder or crime;

o      the protection of health or morals;

o      the protection of the reputation or rights of others;

o      preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence; or

o      maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

In considering questions of proportionality the potential for a ‘chilling effect’ on expression, the value of the particular form of expression, the medium used for the expression (i.e. newspaper or television) will all be taken into account, along with other considerations.

Article 10 also provides that it does not prevent the Government from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises, although such restrictions must still be in accordance with law and be necessary and proportionate.

In cases where free expression might be affected section 12 of the HRA requires courts to have particular regard to the importance of the right and to not impose injunctions without the other party being first notified unless there is strong justification for doing so.

The message to whinging ex-Labour councillors and current Labour councillors who often complain about being identified and criticised on this and other blogs is simple:

Do your job properly 

Be open, honest and transparent

Forget party politics when you are dealing with and discussing residents concerns 

Admit you can be wrong and admit you do make mistakes

When Labour councillors forget they are supposed to be committed to the Nolan Principles:                                                                                                                  –2                                                                                                         They will be exposed, named and criticised and no amount of pressure from dodgy organisations like ‘Hacked Off’ (The PR wing of the Labour party)                                 or Labour councillors and their supporters can forbid legitimate comments or silence the right to free speech.







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2 Responses to Don’t Let Free Speech Die

  1. Dave Bucklow says:

    I enjoy reading your blog and the insights it gives into English local politics.
    I live and work in New Brunswick in Canada and our local councillors don’t provide us with anything like the cut and thrust of Anston Council. Our councillors seem rather tame in comparison but we and they still share the same belief that Free Speech must not be denied however much the other person(s) feels hard done by.
    One thing we don’t have is councillors sticking to a party line, the community comes first and Canadian local councillors have different powers to English parish councillors.
    Thanks for an entertaining read.


  2. Veritas. says:

    I hope ex Labour councillors Dalton and St.John read this.
    Their previous answers to questions was to either dismiss the questions, offer to ‘put the answer in writing’ or to lose the plot and raise their voices to deny the questions altogether particularly when a question concerned their integrity and “Memory loss”.
    Taking umbrage because they and their fellow Labour nodding donkeys were often criticised in public and in print shows just how shallow they were. It has to be said that most of the previous Labour councillors made a mockery of the Nolan Principles or decided to ignore them completely.
    Freedom of Speech is essential in a democracy and it must never be forgotten how many people paid the ultimate price to preserve that freedom.


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