In U.K., Freedom of Speech and Press Hang in the Balance

Article excerpt

The United Kingdom has been viewed as a beacon for free expression when compared to much of the rest of the world. Today, however, the right to freely express oneself in the U.K. is increasingly 'under threat, as exemplified by hundreds of bizarre prosecutions in recent years. The debate is heating up, though, as lawmakers consider reforms that would expand or quash liberty.

In recent years, authorities have been fiendishly prosecuting individuals merely for what they say on social media services such as Twitter and Facebook. Using controversial laws purporting to criminalize "insulting" or "offensive" comments, for instance, prosecutors have brought to trial well over 1,000 cases each year since 2009. The numbers are steadily rising, too, according to data obtained by the Associated Press through freedom of information requests and reported by Fox News November 15, showing that 1,286 people were convicted last year merely for what they said in electronic communications.

While free speech is supposed to be protected in the U.K., there are countless "exceptions" that could land somebody in jail merely for what they say. On the list of verboten expression: speech that is abusive, insulting, distressing, indecent, likely to cause a breach of the peace, racist, meant to incite religious hatred, seditious, obscene, defamatory, scandalous to a court by criticizing judges, and more. …