Archive for the 'Incitement of Violence' 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?’

Rwanda’s ’genocide ideology’ laws: threatening freedom of expression and the rule of law

In many post-conflict societies, a delicate balance must be struck between safeguarding rights and freedoms and taking measures to prevent future conflict.  Rwanda is often cited as a case where this debate is particularly relevant, given the severe ethnic conflicts resulting in the 1994 Genocide, and the subsequent passing of post-conflict “genocide ideology” and “sectarianism” laws. In theory, these laws were created to stifle the kind of hate speech broadcasted during the 1994 genocide, but in practice they have been used to silence critics of the current government, as reported in Amnesty International’s 2011 Report, Unsafe to speak out: Restrictions on freedom of expression in Rwanda. Continue reading ‘Rwanda’s ’genocide ideology’ laws: threatening freedom of expression and the rule of law’

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’?’

Was Sarah Palin’s blog incitement to Violence? – The extent of the First Amendment’s protection

In the wake of the appalling acts in Arizona perpetrated by Jared Lee Loughner, Aryeh Neier, in the Guardian, argued that the only method of preventing a recurrence was ‘the traditional remedy for bad speech: more speech.’ It has taken the murder of six and wounding of thirteen to suddenly jolt us into the realisation that the indiscriminate application of this theory has failed.

Neier was, essentially, justifying the extremely strict test of incitement to violence in the US. In fact, a State cannot prosecute individuals who encourage the use of violence unless this encouragement is directed towards producing imminent lawless action and that it was likely to do so (Brandenburg v Ohio). Continue reading ‘Was Sarah Palin’s blog incitement to Violence? – The extent of the First Amendment’s protection’

Freedom to incite?

Muslim nations across the world have appealed to the US government to stop plans of a US pastor to publicly burn Korans on the anniversary of September 11. The Indian government has called for a media blackout, urging media outlets not to publish images of the event. Despite widespread criticism, US officials have stated that First Amendment constitutional rights guaranteeing freedom of speech, assembly and religion, prevent them from prohibiting the event.

Pastor Terry Jones, of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, United States, has said that he will go ahead with the event, insisting that the burning is a way to “confront terrorism”. The controversy comes at a time of heightened tensions in the US about the role of Islam, following heated debate about plans to build an Islamic centre close to Ground Zero in New York.

US military commanders have warned that the burning could spark violent retaliation against US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Senior members of the Obama administration, including Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and leading Christian and Jewish figures have condemned the planned event.

The ‘Value’ of Hate Speech

Is ‘hate speech’ always so valueless as to warrant its prohibition by international law?  Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights not only condemns hate speech constituting incitement of discrimination, hostility or violence, but requires laws to prohibit it.  Identifying the point where free speech becomes hate speech, and therefore justifies a limitation on freedom of expression, has historically been riddled with problems:  set the standard too low and the potential objects of hate speech are left unprotected; set it too high and it risks becoming a tool of persecution for governments against their opponents.  At the recent Timely National Conference on Freedom of Expression in Kenya, the legitimacy of measures criminalising hate speech were considered, but there was no questioning of the definition of hate speech as “valueless” and therefore outside the scope of protection of international law. Continue reading ‘The ‘Value’ of Hate Speech’


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