The Government has indicated that it will introduce a new counter-terrorism bill, including plans for extremism disruption orders that involve broadcasting bans, restrictions on publications whether they are on the web, social media or in print, and restrictions on taking part in public protests or speaking at public events.
In response to these announcements, David Davis MP said:
“Restricting free speech, and forcing those who hold views inimical to our own out of public debate and into the shadows, is an authoritarian act that will only serve to further alienate those who are susceptible to extremist views.
As Alan Dershowitz said, “Freedom of speech means freedom for those who you despise, and freedom to express the most despicable views. It also means that the government cannot pick and choose which expressions to authorize and which to prevent.”
Whether it is the draft Communications Data Bill (Snooper’s Charter), TPIMS, extremism disruption orders or extremism banning orders, in recent years the Government has sought to introduce a stream of measures that would erode basic principles of freedom without making us any safer. Indeed many governmental actions in the last decade and a half seem to have made the threats on our streets worse.
It is especially ironic that the Government should announce these measures within a week of VE Day, a celebration of the defence of liberty, democracy and free speech, a defence in which millions gave up their lives to protect freedoms we should not give up lightly.
The proper test for whether the activities in question are illegal needs to be violence or incitement to violence; we cannot continue to infringe on people’s rights based on what they say rather than what they do. Anything else will be extremely subjective and extraordinarily difficult to enforce in the courts. It will also make judicial martyrs out of the very people we are trying to oppose.
Only by engaging with extremist views, opposing them and defeating them through debate can we hope to deal with the threat of extremism. The lesson of centuries of British history is that the best defence of freedom is freedom itself, and the last thing we should do in trying to defeat the enemies of western civilization is throw away our strongest weapon, free speech.”