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Please find below our press release in response to the Queen's speech announcing government legislation which would allow ‘gagged’ speakers to claim compensation if they have been no-platformed by a student union or a university - all in the name of 'free speech'.

“This legislation is clearly an attack on the left. While we argue in favour of open debate and against no-platforming of speakers, which has affected me personally in the past, this law has to be seen firmly in context of the reality of continuing attacks by this government on free speech when it comes to issues of Israel and Palestine. Free Speech is vital for democracy, but it must be even-handed and not a one-sided free speech only when suits a government’s agenda”, warns Jackie Walker, a member of the 
campaign’s steering committee

Please join the Labour Campaign for Free Speech to support our work (you can also make a donation without joining). All members may attend our first all-members' meeting on Saturday May 29, where we want to discuss the implications of Professor Miller's case and are planning to set up a working group specifically on the question of 'academic freedom'. Please let us know of any other issues you think we should discuss. 
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Craig Murray’s prison sentence “has very worrying implications for free speech”

Labour Campaign for Free Speech fears that Craig Murray is being made a scapegoat because of his support for Julian Assange and Alex Salmond

Craig Murray’s prison sentence “has very worrying implications for free speech”

Labour Campaign for Free Speech fears that Craig Murray is being made a scapegoat because of his support for Julian Assange and Alex Salmond

The Labour Campaign for Free Speech condemns the harsh eight months’ prison sentence imposed on former ambassador and torture whistleblower Craig Murrray. The contempt of court case against Craig poses a grave threat to press freedom, as independent scrutiny of the powers-that-be is vital to any democratic society. This ruling has important ramifications  for all those journalists wishing to deliver balanced reporting by covering the defence case. This is because the wide interpretation of the term ‘jigsaw identification’ present in the judgement can be misused to prevent public understanding of the entirety of a case. 

The campaign worries that Murray seems to have been singled out for prosecution, even though a range of other journalists provided more information than he did. It is also deeply troubling  that the sheer mechanics of the contempt of court hearings mean there is no jury trial, which means Craig is not being judged by a jury of his peers. 

“Craig is an outspoken and determined, independent journalist. Through his insightful writing and his documentation of a range of judicial cases and of political machinations, he has uncovered serious abuses of power”, said Dr Deepa Driver, a member of the campaign’s Steering Committee.  

The campaign is gravely concerned  that Craig Murray’s prosecution is convenient to those who wish to suppress his reporting because of the uncomfortable facts he has revealed about the inhuman and illegal treatment of Julian Assange. 

“This judgement means that the court has denied Mr Murray the right to appear in-person as a witness in a prosecution in Spain against a company that systematically breached Julian Assange’s rights to privacy for legally privileged conversations with his lawyers. The company was used by the CIA to spy on Julian Assange, and elements of that trial are vital to Mr Assange’s ongoing defence. Mr Assange remains in Belmarsh prison without charge, despite winning the battle against extradition”, Dr Driver said. 

This seems to be “the first instance in Scottish legal history where ‘jigsaw identification’ has led to an individual being imprisoned,” a statement released on behalf of Murray’s family stated.

This harsh sentence also seems to be politically motivated as a result of Craig Murray’s support for Alex Salmond, who, we should remember, was acquitted by a jury on all 14 counts of sexual harassment and assault brought against him.

The Labour Campaign for Free Speech supports Craig Murray’s campaign to raise legal funds and has made a donation of £250, urging its supporters to follow suit. 

Press release: “Boris Johnson’s ‘free speech legislation’ is nothing but a fraud”

Press release, May 12 2021

Amidst Israel’s brutal campaign against Palestinians, Labour Campaign for Free Speech condemns the government as it continues to “chill free speech” by threatening universities with defunding if they don’t adopt IHRA.  

The government’s proposed free speech legislation has been “roundly condemned as a thinly-disguised fraud” by the Labour Campaign For Free Speech, which was set up in February 2021 at a conference with over 300 participants. The legislation will allow ‘gagged’ speakers to claim compensation if they have been no-platformed by a student union or a university. 

“This legislation is clearly an attack on the left. While we argue in favour of open debate and against no-platforming of speakers, which has affected me personally in the past, this law has to be seen firmly in context of the reality of continuing attacks by this government on free speech when it comes to issues of Israel and Palestine. Free Speech is vital for democracy, but it must be even-handed and not a one-sided free speech only when suits a government’s agenda”, warns Jackie Walker, a member of the campaign’s steering committee

Tina Werkmann, also a member of the campaign’s steering committee, said that, “Education secretary Gavinn Williams claims the legislation will counter the ‘chilling effect of censorship on campus’ – all the while he is continuing to threaten universities with defunding if they don’t accept the highly disputed so-called ‘working definition of antisemitism’ published by the International Holocaus Remembrance Alliance. The government is clearly attacking academic freedom and free speech, not defending it.”

The IHRA has been rejected by numerous legal practitioners and academic scholars, because it conflates anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Among the many critics of the IHRA are its principal author Kenneth Stern who explained that: “The definition was not drafted, and was never intended, as a tool to target or chill speech on a college campus. In fact, at a conference in 2010 about the impact of the definition, I highlighted this misuse, and the damage it could do.”

“This is particularly disgusting in the context of the current brutal attacks of the Israeli government, which is attempting to ethnically cleanse Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied Jerusalem”, Tina Werkmann said. 

Following justified protests from Palestinians, the Israeli government has responded with increasing brutality, including an assault on worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque that has wounded hundreds. Israel has now started bombarding the population of besieged Gaza, many refugees from Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948. Hundreds of Palestinian civilians have already been killed, including children. 

“Rather than hold the Israeli government accountable for its crimes, the Tory government continues to seek to punish all those who dare to speak out in solidarity with the Palestinians. Trying to enforce IHRA on campus is part and parcel of a campaign to attack academic freedom and free speech particularly on the issue of Israel and Palestine”, said Tony Greenstein, another member of the campaign’s steering committee. 

— Ends —

Some of the legal practitioners and academic scholars critical of IHRA are:

  • Professor David Feldman (vice-chair of the Chakrabarti Inquiry and director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism) who has described the definition as “bewilderingly imprecise”.
  • Sir Stephen Sedley, the Jewish former Court of Appeal judge, who has written thatthe IHRA “fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite”.
  • Hugh Tomlinson QC who has warned that the IHRA definition had a “chilling effect on public bodies”.
  • Geoffrey Robertson QC who has explained that, “The definition does not cover the most insidious forms of hostility to Jewish people and the looseness of the definition is liable to chill legitimate criticisms of the state of Israel and coverage of human rights abuses against Palestinians.” Robertson, a prominent human rights barrister, also wrote that the definition was ‘not fit for purpose’.
  • Tony Lerman, the founder of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, wrote that “it’s not fit for purpose, but it also has the effect of making Jews more vulnerable to antisemitism, not less, and exacerbating the bitter arguments Jews have been having over the nature of contemporary antisemitism for the last 20 to 25 years.”
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Copyright © 2021 Labour Campaign for Free Speech, All rights reserved.


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