UK: Government must urgently rethink protest laws

Article by Fair Trials

Index on Censorship and 10 other civil liberty organisations including Fair Trials, Big Brother Watch, and Liberty have written to Home Secretary Suella Braverman calling on the government to rethink protest laws following the arrests of several journalists.

Last week, three journalists covering Just Stop Oil protests, including one reporter from leading talk radio station LBC, were arrested under suspicion of “conspiracy to commit a public nuisance”. As the letter states, these arrests were unjustified, unlawful and a direct threat to press freedom in the UK.

They are also indicative of a wider problem in the UK, the crackdown on protest entirely. The letter urges the Home Secretary to reconsider the Public Order Bill, which is being debated in the House of Lords this week. The Bill is a blatant attack on the right to protest, containing a raft of new protest-specific offences, expansion of police powers and introduction of ‘protest banning orders’.

The Public Order Bill stands to create a significant chilling effect on our ability to stand up to power, dissuading people from exercising their right to protest and to freedom of assembly as well as sweeping more and more people into the criminal justice system for doing so. It must be scrapped in its entirety.

The letter says ““In light of these events, and in the context of creating additional police powers to restrict the right to protest, we call on you to commission an independent review into the new public nuisance offence and both pause and reconsider plans to curtail individuals’ right to freedom of expression through the Public Order Bill, which will disproportionately affect communities for whom this right is most urgent.”

Click here to read the full letter on the Index on Censorship website.