Saturday, August 16, 2008

UN criticises UK on freedom of expression

As reported by yesterday's Guardian, the UN Human Rights Committee has criticised the UK's record on freedom of expression in their triennial review (CCPR/C/GBR/CO/6):

24. The Committee remains concerned that powers under the Official Secrets Act 1989 have been exercised to frustrate former employees of the Crown from bringing into the public domain issues of genuine public interest, and can be exercised to prevent the media from publishing such matters. It notes that disclosures of information are penalized even where they are not harmful to national security…

25. The Committee is concerned that the State party's practical application of the law of libel has served to discourage critical media reporting on matters of serious public interest, adversely affecting the ability of scholars and journalists to publish their work, including through the phenomenon known as "libel tourism." The advent of the internet and the international distribution of foreign media also create the danger that a State party's unduly restrictive libel law will affect freedom of expression worldwide on matters of valid public interest…

26. The Committee notes with concern that the offence of “encouragement of terrorism” has been defined in section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006 in broad and vague terms. In particular, a person can commit the offence even when he or she did not intend members of the public to be directly or indirectly encouraged by his or her statement to commit acts of terrorism, but where his or her statement was understood by some members of the public as encouragement to commit such acts.

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