Oct 20, 2016
“How do you make the case for freedom of speech these days?,” asks Brendan O’Neill in the latest episode of “So to Speak.”
The question is a serious one for O’Neill. As the editor of the online British current-affairs magazine “spiked,” he is on the front lines every day fighting to preserve free speech and a free press in a legal environment that doesn’t have a First Amendment.
In a part of the world that just last year imprisoned a man for four months for singing a controversial song before a soccer match, O’Neill says that there are many laws that can land people in hot water for speaking their minds in the United Kingdom. For example, he says that England has among the worst libel laws in Europe.
In England, unlike the United States, the libel laws are greatly weighted in favor of the person who sues, says O’Neill, who notes that about 80 percent of libel actions go in favor of the person suing. As a result, he regularly considers the libel laws when editing content for “spiked.”
“It’s a rich man’s law, which is used to silence criticism, and political views, and difficult, awkward views that people don’t like,” he says.
“spiked” counts as part of its mission the defense of “freedom of speech with no ifs and buts” because, as O’Neill says, “as soon as you give an inch on freedom of speech, they will take a mile.”
But, despite the United Kingdom’s countervailing laws, O’Neill says that the argument in favor of freedom of speech “still has real purchase and real power.” And until those censorship laws are struck down and threats to free speech are extinguished, O’Neill says “spiked” will keep making those arguments.
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