An independent review of terrorism legislation has shown the current UK laws are so broad they could criminalize an anti-vaccination blog.
David Anderson QC argues that the definition must be narrowed to avoid classing mainstream political speech or investigative journalism, as terrorism.
Mike Harris for The Independent writes “The threatened publication of words – yes, words – may constitute an act of terrorism.” Harris works as campaign director of Don’t Spy On Us and an adviser to the writer’s association English PEN.
via The Independent:
The Government’s own independent reviewer of terrorism legislation,David Anderson QC is worried. He thinks the Terrorism Act of 2000 is so broad it could criminalise, for instance, an anti-vaccination blog. In a damning report published earlier this week Anderson argued that the definition of terrorism needs to be much narrower, or mainstream political speech or investigative journalism could be classified as terrorism – one of the most serious criminal offences.
The detention of David Miranda at Heathrow Airport last year sent a signal from the intelligence agencies that journalists would be treated as terrorists if they crossed invisible lines. Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, was thought to be carrying leaked documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden. When the intelligence agencies called for him to be detained at Heathrow under the Terrorism Act, the police (rightly) refused. Discrediting journalists by slurring them as terrorists is the modus operandi of Vladimir Putin, it’s just not what democracies do. The intelligence agencies weren’t deterred and returned to the police with a new request. They stated:
“Disclosure [of the Snowden files], or threat of disclosure, is designed to influence a government, and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause. This therefore falls within the definition of terrorism and as such we request that the subject is examined under Schedule 7”
The threatened publication of words – yes words – may constitute an act of terrorism. The case went to the High Court, with help from campaigning organisations such as English PEN. The decision in the case (now infamous as the Miranda judgement) outlined that writing (whether a blog or a book), may amount to terrorism if it is “for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause”, “designed to influence the government” and “liable to endanger life or create a serious risk to health or safety.” Yes, terrorism includes risks to health and safety. You really couldn’t make it up.
Image attributed to Martin Cauchon