Archive for the 'Europe' Category

Social networking communication: has the line on free speech been Drawn too far?

“Smash down in Northwich Town,” the name of a Facebook event page which has cost its creator, Jordan Blackshaw, four years in prison. The sentence followed the Chester Crown Court’s verdict that the event page, created during the London riots, was capable of inciting others to commit riot. However, given that the event went unattended, the town of Northwich left undisturbed, Brendon O’Neill, editor of Spiked, an independent online forum, questions whether the courts were justified in criminalising the defendant’s behaviour and considers whether the convictions were in fact a violation of the defendant’s right to freedom of expression. Continue reading ‘Social networking communication: has the line on free speech been Drawn too far?’


The Value of Democracy: A Challenge to the ‘Hyper-Injunction’?

One could understandably become very confused by all the new terminology English Media Law has had thrown at it these days. First we had ‘super-injunctions’, described by Lord Neuberger’s report as:

 “…an interim injunction which restrains a person from: (i) publishing information which concerns the applicant and is said to be confidential or private; and, ii) publicising or informing others of the existence of the order and the proceedings (the ‘super’ element of the order)”

 Next we have been introduced to ‘hyper-injunctions’, which in addition to the above, explicitly prevent parties from complaining about matters to their local MP. This is designed to forestall claiming of Parliamentary Privilege in disclosing the information to the House of Commons. Apparently however, this does not prevent MPs from discussing the details of cases off their own bat. The distinction between hyper-injunctions and super-injunctions is not conceptually deep; essentially they are the same juridical tool, the difference is one of specificity. Continue reading ‘The Value of Democracy: A Challenge to the ‘Hyper-Injunction’?’

Azerbaijan and the case of Eynulla Fatullayev

Protesters gathered in front of the Azerbaijani Embassy on 20 April to commemorate the anniversary of the imprisonment of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev in 2007, and to support the Azerbaijani citizens who were harassed and brought under custody during the opposition rally that took place on 9 and 17 April 2011, in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Human Rights Organisations report a rapid deterioration of media freedom in the country and the case of Eynulla Fatullayev ‘symbolises’ Ajerbaijan’s failure to secure freedom of expression as guaranteed in international and European law.  Continue reading ‘Azerbaijan and the case of Eynulla Fatullayev’

Judge Affirms Freedom Of Expression In Northern Ireland

In 2008 Sandown Free Presbyterian Church placed an advert in a newspaper in Northern Ireland which referred to homosexuality as ‘an abomination’ and invited people to join in a peaceful public prayer witness against acts of sodomy.  After receiving seven complaints that the advertisement was blatantly homophobic, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) suggested that the advert had caused ‘serious offence’ to some readers and ordered that it be removed and not published in the same format again.  The Church challenged the decision of the ASA arguing the ban to be an infringement of their rights to freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and it was last month that Justice Treacy agreed with the applicants, that the outright ban on the advertisement infringed their right to freedom of expression.  Continue reading ‘Judge Affirms Freedom Of Expression In Northern Ireland’

The value of free expression in the UK: defamation reform and conditional fee arrangements

“We must be free or die, who speak the tongue
That Shakespeare spoke: the faith and morals hold
Which Milton held. – In everything we are sprung
Of Earth`s first blood, have titles manifold.”
William Wordsworth

English liberty has been tied up with freedom of speech for centuries. John Milton defended its value in 1644 in Areopagitica, as did John Stuart Mill in his famous On Liberty in 1859.  English law has proudly protected free speech, arguably since the signing of Magna Carta in 1215 and continued to lead the way through decisions such as Entick v Carrington [1765] EWHC KB J98. The value of free speech, now more broadly encapsulated in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights as ‘freedom of expression’ is arguably the most established and unchanging of the United Kingdom’s political values.

Continue reading ‘The value of free expression in the UK: defamation reform and conditional fee arrangements’

Book Burning and Gay Bashing: The continuing First Amendment struggles in the United States.

In the recent decision of Snyder v Phelps the Supreme Court of the United States of America, acting in an 8 – 1 majority has affirmed the right to free speech guaranteed under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.  The case centred on the ever controversial presence of the Westbro Baptist Church at the funerals of military personnel killed in active service or combat.   In March 2006 the funeral of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, a soldier killed while on service in Iraq became the focus of the Church’s protestations against the willingness of the United States acceptance of homosexuality.  The church displayed signs such as “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead soldiers” close to where the funeral service was taking place.  Continue reading ‘Book Burning and Gay Bashing: The continuing First Amendment struggles in the United States.’

Why More Speech Does Not Always Work

The boundary between legitimate expression and hate speech in the United Kingdom represents the battle between rights and responsibilities and it has been tested recently. By way of contrast, in the United States the war has, by and large, been won by the right. This stark divergence requires us to answer the following question: why does freedom of speech demand some responsibility and how does this inform the limitations on that right?

In the UK case of Munim Abdul, the claimants had shouted slogans such as ‘burn in hell’ and ‘rapists’ at a parade of British soldiers. Later, they were prosecuted under section 5 of the Public Order Act and the High Court subsequently decided that this did not violate their right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Gross LJ argued that the claimants’ actions went beyond ‘legitimate protest’. Isabel McArdle has written an excellent summary of the case here at the UK Human Rights Blog. Continue reading ‘Why More Speech Does Not Always Work’

Fired over Facebook: Employer Regulation of Speech on Social Media Sites

Experts have stated that “the intersection of social media and the office is a potential minefield,” creating numerous possibilities for a wide variety of lawsuits. A manager “poking” an employee on Facebook might give rise to a sexual harassment claim. Or perhaps an employer may rescind a job offer to an employee after learning via Facebook that the applicant is of a particular religion or sexual orientation. While these types of lawsuits seem inevitable, claims concerning employee speech on social networking sites have already become prevalent.   Continue reading ‘Fired over Facebook: Employer Regulation of Speech on Social Media Sites’

Prisoners’ voting rights – the unholy alliance between Jack Straw and David Davis

Convicts, it appears, now have two more names to add to their hit-list. An unholy alliance between Jack Straw and David Davis has emerged with the aim of defeating the UK Government plans to award the vote to prisoners serving four years or less. David Davis argued that, ‘I yield to no-one in my defence of human rights, but giving rapists the vote is not human rights.’ Unfortunately, this is not really an argument. The fact that someone is a rapist does not diminish their claim to human rights any less than if they were an MP.   

In fact, this seems to be endemic in the claims of many opponents of the coalition’s plan to award the vote to those serving custodial sentences of four years or less. To argue that prisoners have forfeited the right to vote, or that they have lost the right for failing their responsibilities because they have broken the law simply begs the question. It amounts to saying nothing more than, ‘prisoners cannot vote because they are prisoners.’ All that is left is a gut-instinct that criminals are the bad guys who should not vote. Continue reading ‘Prisoners’ voting rights – the unholy alliance between Jack Straw and David Davis’

UK government urges ISPs to block porn

This week the government revealed plans to approach internet service providers (ISPs), in January, in a bid to curb easy access to internet porn. Ministers are hoping for a system (provided and administered by the ISPs) where customers must opt-in. It has been suggested that if ISPs fail to devise this system voluntarily, legislation may be introduced. The main supporting argument for these changes has been to control what children can access online. More and more young children are inadvertently viewing porn sites and only 15% of parents understand how to use the controls provided on their computers to restrict such access. Another more recent worry is the ability to access such sites on mobile phones, which is obviously much more difficult to monitor. Some, but not all, ISPs have recently blocked this ability. Continue reading ‘UK government urges ISPs to block porn’

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