A more recent version of these Freedom Of Expression And National Security notes – written by Oxford students – is available here.
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Freedom of Expression and Natonal Security FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
Gearty: "in relatively stable societies, restrictions on freedom of expression are regarded as the most serious conceivable breach of civil liberties"
But arguably torture etc. is much worse and thus free speech seems esoteric and elitist. (Raz). Solutions: o Non-consequentialist:
? The argument from autonomy. Freedom of speech reflects the manner in which we view individuals as autonomous. Autonomous individuals should be allowed to express themselves.
? To deny the right to expression is to deny an individual his humanity.
? Autonomous individuals should be able to hear what others have to say and judge its credibility themselves.
? But free speech should not be unlimited - we can guard against particularly harmful consequences. The harm of free speech must be weighed against the good. o Consequentialist:
? Marketplace of ideas: Similar idea to the free market economy. Good ideas succeed, poor ones are put out of business and the quality of competition is heightened. Mill agrees with this approach. But remember that the free market is flawed and relies on the rationality of consumers, which may not necessarily exist.
? 'Lifeblood of democracy' argument: democracy requires more than regular elections. Those elections must be informed and meaningful. Freedom of speech allows this. Put forward by Meiklejohn.
? Freedom of speech promotes tolerance. If gays can be seen in the public eye as a part of normal life, tolerance will follow.
Free speech helps ensure the government are held to account - freedom of information etc. Also, praise and criticism must be freely permitted.
Legal entrenchment of the right (legal constitutionalism) allows political mechanisms of control to be more fully exploited. Article 10 ECHR
Freedom of speech existed before the ECHR but it receives proper legal footing etc. from the HRA. Art. 10 only protects 'expression'. What counts as 'expression'?
o Opinions, information, ideas, but this is non-exhaustive. The line between what is an is not expression can be a thin one - calling blacks 'animals' is not expression, but hard-core pornography and flag burning is. Restrictions to freedom of speech are given under Art 10(2): in the interest of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary. o But again everything boils down to a cost-benefit analysis and there are certain situations where restricting freedom of speech requires greater justification. o Bowman v UK - C distributed 1.5 million flyers detailing election candidates' views on abortion. She was charged with violating a 1983 statute that prohibited an individual not running for office from spending more than PS5 with a view to promoting or procuring a candidate for election. There was a specific exception for the media. She claimed this was a breach of Article 10 and sued the UK. The court granted her claim. They accepted that there may be state interest in limiting individual involvement in influencing election results, but the limit of PS5 was a 'total barrier' to her having any influence.
Official Secrets Acts o 1911 Act s.1 deals with spying - fraternising with an enemy. o 1989 Act, in ss.1-4 deal with disclosure of information which may be a threat to security, defence, international relations and crime.
1989 Act: o s.1 - security and intelligence. Applies to current and former employees of the intelligence services and people who have been informed that a relevant piece of information is being governed under s.1
? No damage need be shown.
? Also applied to current and former employees of the Crown and government contractors. Damage or the likelihood that damage would/will occur needs to be shown here. S.1(3).
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