Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Freedom Of Speech: If We Don’t Protect It, We’ll Lose It To People Like This

We Support Harry\'s Place Blogburst


I haven’t been able to get into top notch (though left-wing) blog ‘Harry’s Place’ over the last few days, and I’d assumed they were having technical problems with their server.

Over at ‘Unenlightened Commentary’ this morning, I found out that they have actually been yanked by their service provider following a complaint, because they highlighted the activities of one Jenna Delich, a Sheffield based academic, and her involvement with the lecturers union the UCU.

They have a temporary site set up over here.

Go see what this whackademic (to borrow a term from the incomparable Dumb Jon!) has been up to, and decide for yourselves if she deserves to have the power to shut down a blog legitimately raising questions over her activities…

Update 17:58: Harry's Place is now back up! Yay! *applause*

Meanwhile, over at 'Comment is Free', Sally Hunt, UCU Gen Sec, is coming in for a well deserved kicking for her unfortunately-timed post on the perils of studying religious extremism online. Oh dear... ;)

Update No.2, 28/808 17:48: Thanks to NeoConstant, there's now a handy little banner you can get to show your support, and the company you are keeping in supporting free speech.

9 comments:

Letters From A Tory said...

No-one deserves the power to shut down a website, but the government has put nothing in place to stop it from happening.

DJ said...

The problem is that it's way too easy to threaten nuisance lawsuits without any real consequences. Then again, you can say that about a lot of areas - personal injury for one. It's going to keep happening until we allow the winner to claim back more than just the bare legal costs.

JuliaM said...

Absolutely - bout time the libel laws were overhauled, so the people with deep pockets can't afford to shut up those raising legitimate concerns.

John M Ward said...

DJ has it completely correct. We are turning into a version of America's litigation culture, which (as always) gives more power to the already powerful and influential, and those backed by suchlike, to suppress dissent, whistleblowing or any other "inconvenience".

Oh, and I think I might have called the lady in question a "wackodemic" -- but perhaps that's just my oddball brain at work...

JuliaM said...

"We are turning into a version of America's litigation culture..."

Hmm, possibly, but I think in this case, America's freedom of speech statutes are much, much more powerful than our own, and would have protected this claim.

Blue Eyes said...

And the US has a punitive damages/costs system which we don't.

patently said...

We are too frightened of the US style of litigation.

Yes, those with deep pockets can run to a US court without fear of an adverse costs award. But do you really think that they are going to be frightened of a UK Court, if their pockets are so deep anyway?

US Courts are open to all, and many more use them. That is not necessarily a bad thing per se. In that larger number of cases, some are clearly ridiculous, and we (rightly) laugh at them. But the majority are cases where people feel wronged and are asking the Court for justice.

Here, the rich have easy access to the Courts, but those not so fortunate are usually frightened away from asserting their rights or defending a claim through fear of the costs consequences.

It is, surely, a peculiarly British policy that, in the interests of fairness and justice, we award costs to the winner and thereby scare away from our Courts all but the rich and the foolhardy.

JuliaM said...

"In that larger number of cases, some are clearly ridiculous, and we (rightly) laugh at them."

Yes, I well remember the case of the lost trousers.... ;)

"It is, surely, a peculiarly British policy that, in the interests of fairness and justice, we award costs to the winner and thereby scare away from our Courts all but the rich and the foolhardy."

One venerable old tradition I'd be happy to see done away with, for once...

patently said...

Ah ... the Judge's lost trousers.

We have this thing called a strike-out application. Basically, you stand in front of the Judge, read out the pleading, and say "Mr Judge, do you think they have a cat in hell's chance of getting that?" If he says "no", it's bye-bye claimant.

It really isn't used often enough....