Friday, April 20, 2007

‘EU law will end free speech’

According to The Daily Telegraph, which refers to the wide concerns of bloggers, free speech on the internet is under threat from draconian new laws which could see them (hmm… perhaps Cranmer should say ‘us’) jailed for up to three years.

Well, three years imprisonment is indeed to be relished when compared to being burnt at the stake, but Cranmer is somewhat concerned that the EU is legislating in this area at all. The Council Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia is portentous indeed, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the effective functioning of the single market. It is proof positive that the EU is acquiring criminal jurisdiction – a legal personality - which supplants the role of the Home Office and may override the authority of the Home Secretary. But since this centuries-old Office of State is soon to be abolished split anyway, perhaps the EU is simply seizing the opportunity.

Europe's justice ministers have agreed genocide denial and race hatred legislation that will outlaw remarks which are ‘carried out in a manner likely to incite violence or hatred’. This includes publicly inciting to violence or hatred, even by dissemination or distribution of religious tracts, pictures or other material, directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.

The document declares:

Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that racist and xenophobic motivation is considered an aggravating factor, or, alternatively that such motivation may be taken into consideration by the courts in the determination of the penalties.

Since ‘xenophobia’ is defined as the fear of things foreign, there is nothing that distinguishes irrational fear from the perfectly rational. To criminalise a fear which may be rationally explained (or even one that is irrationally held) is a move towards the creation of thought crime, and this demands the formation of a pan-EU thought-police to patrol our consciences and opinions, to ensure that both conform to the prevailing religio-political zeitgeist.

The Government and Mr Blair tried a number of times to introduce a law against incitement to religious hatred, and they failed in their quest. The very concept which was explicitly rejected by Parliament is now being incorporated into UK law through EU mechanisms. Defining terms like ‘xenophobia’, ‘religion’ or ‘hatred’ is fraught with difficulty, and the effect will be to censor essential debate, and criminalise those who raise such concerns. While Cranmer has no time for those who deny the Holocaust, the notion that one should be imprisoned for the idea is a step towards denial of the freedom of belief, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech.

It is no wonder that the Prime Minister has now decided to deny the British People a referendum on the EU Constitution EU Tidying-up Treaty, which, of course, will now contain nothing of constitutional significance whatsoever…


Blogger Sir Henry Morgan said...

The Koran and aHadith could find themselves in trouble.

That's the only good thing I can detect in this repressive proposal.

20 April 2007 at 12:47  
Anonymous Colin said...

"That's the only good thing I can detect in this repressive proposal."

It is not. These laws are subject to interpretation. They will be mainly used as an instrument for the punishment of EU dissenters. The EU police is already in the making. It will take only a few years and any EU opponent might be arrested because of xenophobia. The internet is a danger for the rulers because of its lack of control. This is going to change. China is leading the way how to do this technologically. During WW-II it was nearly impossible to control the population in Nazi Germany if they were listening to the BBC. Now, everybody can be traced on the internet.

We won't enjoy for very long the freedom of speech on the internet. His Grace is absolutely correct to warn that the ‘EU law will end free speech’.

20 April 2007 at 21:36  
Blogger Andrew Jewell said...

These proposals are indeed a concern. The EU encroaches further into our lives.
Laws, seemingly drafted in the spirit of social conscience, will no doubt be followed to the pointless and repressive letter.
Step by step the building blocks are laid to enable us to legally persecute the righteous.
In this context I am also conerned about the recent proposals regarding incitement to religious hatred.

20 April 2007 at 22:46  
Blogger Buenaventura Durruti said...

The Bible wiould be in at least as much trouble as the Qur'an.

21 April 2007 at 18:27  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

"The Bible wiould be in at least as much trouble as the Qur'an."
How so?

21 April 2007 at 21:47  
Anonymous Observer said...

The Bible wiould be in at least as much trouble as the Qur'an.

Not so because the legislation cannot affect the theological basis of discussion and disagreement. That much is clear.

What it would affect is incitement and as we have seen if Nick Griffin tells a private meeting in Keighley, bugged by the BBC, that Islam is an evil is actionable for Nick Griffin to state this, but not illegal for the BBC to broadcast this statement.

This is where judicial interpretation becomes the bugbear, and in Britain owing to a Common Law heritage, judges are more innovative in interpretation than on the Continent where a more "literal" interpretation holds sway.

So the Bible and Koran and Talmud are as such outside the scope of this legislation; but the case law aspects in Britain and the ECHR give rise to concerns about whether one could describe Islam as Nick Griffin, a Cambridge Law graduate, felt he was entitled to in a private meeting in Keighley

22 April 2007 at 07:29  

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