Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Terror Law Too Widely Defined

BLOGGERS and journalists could fall foul of the British legal definition of terrorism if they publish stuff that the authorities see as a danger to public safety.  That is the view of David Anderson Q.C., the official reviewer of counter terrorism laws in this country.

Mr. Anderson said that the UK had some of the most extensive anti-terrorism laws in the western world, and this gave the police and prosecutors the powers to nail al-Qaida terrorists, right-wing extremists and dodgy Irish groups.  Anderson thinks that recently there has been a degree of 'creep' in the use of the laws on terrorism, and because they are so widely drawn up the laws include 'actions aimed at influencing governments':   Anderson said British laws treated politically motivated publication of material thought to endanger life or to create a serious risk to the health and safety of the public as being a terrorist act if it was done for the purpose of  'influencing the government'.

In other European countries and in the Commonwealth countries the level of proof was set much higher in that there had to be an 'intention to coerce or intimidate'.  According to the counter-terrorism watchdog:
'This means political journalists and bloggers are subject to the full range of ant-terrorism powers if they threaten to publish, prepare to publish something that the authorities think may be dangerous to life, public health or public safety.'

He warned that bloggers and journalists could be classed as terrorists even if they had no intention to spread fear or intimidate, and even those who employed or supported them would also qualify as terrorists.   This means a religous campaigner who publicised religous objections to a vaccination campaign could be caught foul of the law on grounds that they were a danger to public health.  Anderson claimed that on hate crimes the law could make a terrorist out of a pupil who threaten to shoot their teacher on a fascist website.  Though this is clearly criminal Mr. Anderson says, but only if they intended to harm their immediate victims, and no purpose would be served by branding such a person a terrorist. 

Anderson said Britain rightly had tough counter-terror laws that the public accepted so long as they were used only when necessary.  Yet, he added:
'But they can currently be applied to journalists and bloggers, to criminals who have no concern other than their immediate victim, and to those who are connected with terrorism' but only at remotely. 

And he insisted:
'This is not a criticism of ministers, prosecutors or police – who as a rule exercise either their remarkably broad discretions with care and restraint.  But it is time parliament reviewed the definition of terrorism to avoid the potential for abuse and to cement public support for special powers that are unfortunately likely to be needed for the foreseeable future.' 

1 comment:

Horny old goat said...

Bloggers subject to terrorism laws?

Don't worry Brian, there's still no law against boring folk to death