Thursday, February 05, 2015

British politicians have a human right to sound racist, says equalities watchdog

Some easing up, it seems

Politicians should be free to say things which “could be construed as racist” while debating issues such as immigration, the Government’s equalities watchdog has insisted.

New legal guidance on freedom of expression in the UK also defends the right of media outlets to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, if they consider it in the public interest, in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo last month.

But the advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission also contains a series of warnings – including one to faith schools over their approach to controversial topics such as gay marriage.

It argues that while schools designated as having a religious character have a legal right to teach their own beliefs on subjects such as sexuality and same-sex marriage, they could still face a discrimination action if their handling of the issue is considered inappropriate or insensitive.

The Commission said the new guidance was needed to help address “muddle” over the law, particularly in the wake of the Paris terrorist atrocities.

But the National Secular Society – which successfully campaigned alongside the Christian Institute against “insulting” behaviour being treated as a public order offence – said it underlined how free speech in Britain relies on a complicated “patchwork of laws” in urgent need of a “root and branch review”.

The paper said there was often a “fine line” between comments which are protected under human rights law and those which could be deemed to be inciting hatred.

But it added that “very little interference” with political campaigning, journalism and commentary on matters of public interest could be justified, particularly during election campaigns.

“Speech that is intended to inform rather than offend attracts greater protection, even if it could be construed as racist,” the guidance says.

“Beliefs, opinions and ideas – even deeply-held beliefs – cannot be immune to criticism or satire. Democracy depends on people being free to express, debate and criticise opposing viewpoints.



Anonymous said...

"they could still face a discrimination action if their handling of the issue is considered inappropriate or insensitive."
Who decides what is inappropriate or insensitive ?

Anonymous said...

law courts in the end

Anonymous said...

The problem is that you can't discuss ANYTHING without someone else branding it as racist. To have a constructive dialog you have to be able to speak. Speech will offend whoever disagrees with it so we just have to accept it.

stinky said...

So politicians will have greater free speech privileges than will the common people.

What could go wrong?

Bird of Paradise said...

I hope Jessie Jackson's listening

Anonymous said...

Jessie Jackson doesn't listen, he just spouts racist tripe.

Anonymous said...

In Australia politicians have always had the right to say what ever they want in parliament with immunity that they don't have on the street. I believe that the people should have the same rights that the politicians have on free speech in the public forum. Strangling free speech creates animosity and will ultimately lead to violence due to built up animosity. PC creates more community hostility than it prevents.

Anonymous said...

I understand that Members of the UK Parliament (on which the Australian Parliaments are based of course) also already have legal immunity in what they say when in the House, though they can be told off by the Speaker, and even physically removed from the Chamber if sufficiently rude or badly behaved.

Go Away Bird said...

Anon 1:00. Rememebr the kids game MR MOUTH the ad line was JUST CANT KEEP HIS BIG MOUTH SHUT Sould like Jessie Jackson all right