Advocacy organisaton CAGE has condemned “the draconian proposals” set out in the new Extremism Bill which was announced on Wednesday as part of the Queen’s speech.
The latest plans include banning orders, prohibiting “extremist” organisations who use “hate speech” in public places, and the imposition of strict measures against the broadcasting of “extremist” material.
In a statement CAGE said the “Bill is yet another disproportionate response to the perceived problem and coupled with the Investigatory Powers Bill, the legislative landscape will resemble that of a police state rather than a democracy. This is shocking on its own and more profound on the anniversary of the Magna Carta.”
CAGE spokesperson Ibrahim Mohamoud added: “This Bill is a direct attack on democratic rights in general, and it is no surprise that PM David Cameron was recently likened to the autocratic regime of Vladimir Putin for his harsh treatment of critics.
“The proposals represent a further erosion of the right of dissent and freedom of expression. The question of who is extremist should not be determined by politicians but subjected to rigorous debate by the public. Otherwise anyone who is critical of government’s policies, both foreign and domestic, is liable to be labelled an ‘extremist’.
“The Magna Carta was a watershed in creating a long established tradition to protect rights and shun attempts to classify individuals and organisations as ‘extremist’ with a view to depriving them of their rights. The proposals represent another attack on citizenry; it will deter young people from engaging in important issues as well as reduce active citizenship.
“It is ironic how the Prime Minister calls for Big Society Engagement, and yet the Bill threatens the kind of independent-minded engagement from civil society that this requires.
“CAGE has previously established how local Prevent teams use unethical and arguably unlawful tactics to undermine the freedoms of expression and assembly. The proposals seek to put that underhanded activity on a statutory footing.
“Whilst the measures are aimed at the minority Muslim community, we continue to call all right-minded, fair and tolerant people to support our work for the protection of the rule of law.”
According to the government The Extremism Bill will introduce measures to promote social cohesion and
protect people by tackling extremism.
They says the purpose of the Bill is to:
• Unite our country and keep you and your family safe by tackling all forms of extremism.
• Combat groups and individuals who reject our values and promote messages of hate.
The main benefits of the Bill (according to the government) would be:
• To strengthen government and law enforcement powers to stop extremists promoting views and behaviour that undermine British values.
• To protect the public from the serious harm extremists intend to cause to individuals, communities and the values we live by.
• To address the gap in government and law enforcement’s powers to deal with extremism that falls below the thresholds in counter-terrorism legislation.
The main elements of the Bill are:
• Banning Orders: a new power for the Home Secretary to ban extremist
• Extremism Disruption Orders: a new power for law enforcement to stop individuals engaging in extremist behaviour.
• Closure Orders: a new power for law enforcement and local authorities to close down premises used to support extremism.
• Broadcasting: strengthening Ofcom’s roles so that tough measures can be taken against channels that broadcast extremist content.
• Employment checks: enabling employers to check whether an individual is an extremist and bar them from working with children.