Fears of academic freedom being affected by new counter terrorism bill

Theresa May’s proposed counter terrorism bill has come under fire from activist groups and teachers unions.

Home Secretary Theresa May’s speech where she proposed a new bill to fight terrorism within the UK has been criticised by the Open Rights Group and the Human Rights watch.

One of the proposed measures for the bill is a new statutory duty on colleges, schools, prisons, probation providers, police and councils to prevent individuals being drawn into terrorism. Ministers will have powers to issue directions to organisations that repeatedly invite extremist speakers or fail in the duty in other ways.

Mary Senior, Official for the Scotland University and Colleges Union (UCU), said:

“Universities and colleges have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their students and staff and not to allow activities which are intended to foment hatred or violence, or to recruit support for unlawful activities such as terrorism.

“At the same time, universities and colleges rightly cherish, and must continue to promote, academic freedom as a key tenet of a civilised society.  It is essential to our democracy that all views are open to debate and challenge within the law.”

Tom Lawrence, from the Home Office Press office said:

“The purpose of our Prevent programme is stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. It deals with all kinds of terrorist threats to the UK.

“Prevent activity in local areas relies on the co-operation of many organisations to be effective. Currently, such co-operation is not consistent across the country.

“The new duty will require specified authorities to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. This will include local government, the police, prisons, providers of probation services, schools, colleges, universities and others.

“Universities’ commitment to freedom of speech and the rationality underpinning the advancement of knowledge means that they represent one of our most important safeguards against extremist views and ideologies.

“However, extremist preachers have used higher education institutions as a platform for spreading their messages. Universities must take seriously their responsibility to deny extremist speakers a platform.

“This duty is not about the government restricting freedom of speech — which the government is committed to – it is about universities taking account of the interests and well-being of all their students, staff and the wider community.”

The bill, which will be published tomorrow, will also give police the power to seize passports and travel documents for up to 30 days, from people thought to be leaving UK to engage in terrorism-related activities, and force internet services providers to release Internet Protocol addressees to the police in order to target individuals.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 448 other followers

%d bloggers like this: