Thursday, December 15, 2005

Free Speech??

Maya Evans stood near the cenotaph on October 25th and recited the names of the 97 soldiers killed in Iraq. Because she had not been given permission to do this by the State, she was arrested under Section 122 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

Blair's buddy Charlie Falconer told the Today programme "Freedom of speech is alive and well in this country. We are a country which could not be freer in its press, in what we say. The idea that we take a measure, which is a public order measure, designed to protect our parliament building, as depriving us of freedom of speech is ridiculously overdone. There isn't a country in the world that doesn't take particular measures to protect its parliament."

Protect its parliament? Wow, what a threat a 25 year old reading out a list of names must pose!

And thanks to Tim Ireland's blog for allowing us to share the thoughts of Maya's local MP, Michael Foster:-

New law protects the right to protest

Sir: I am really sorry that my constituent Maya Evans was convicted under Section 122 of the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (report, 8 December).

On the face of it, it looked to be an overreaction on the part of the prosecutors but be that as it may, it would be wrong to say that the legislation is unnecessary. Its purpose is not to deny protest but to ensure that such protest is possible.

Historically all sorts of protests have taken place around Parliament, but with the current terrorist threat it would be easy to mask a terrorist atrocity under the guise of a legitimate demonstration. The easy solution would have been to simply ban such protest - as the media indeed claim is the purpose of the Act - but that was not the Government's intention.

Section 122 of the Act makes protests within 1km of Parliament illegal unless authorised by the police. However, the police are required to give that authorisation unless public safety or national security is compromised. Thus protests such as that of Maya Evans can be accommodated, provided the police are informed in advance. Indeed it should be noted that Miss Evans's fellow demonstrator Mr Rai did give such notice and was not prosecuted.

Ms Evans's prosecution is unfortunate and appears to have been somewhat zealous, but to suggest it is an attack on free speech is bizarre. Such a right must be, and indeed is, protected by this legislation.


At this point, words fail me.....


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