Free speech erosion accelerates: Man arrested for Tweeting photo of burning poppy

Friday, November 16, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: free speech, Twitter, photos

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(NaturalNews) Police in the southern English city of Kent have arrested a man who posted a picture of a burning poppy online, provoking yet another backlash over the issue of free speech and just how much the right has been curbed in recent years by overzealous authorities.

Police have not been clear about whether or not the man, 19-year-old Linford House, actually took the picture himself, or if he merely found it somewhere else on the Internet.

In the image, someone is holding a lighter to a paper poppy like the kind sold by The British Royal Legion to commemorate remembrance day in Britain.

'What was the point of winning either World War...?'

British press sources reported that House was arrested recently on suspicion of "malicious telecommunications" after police were contacted about his post. Reports also said he is accused of having written a derogatory comment to go along with the Twitter post.

But social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are ablaze with reaction to the arrest, with many posting comments suggesting the House arrest is a violation of human rights laws.

One of those is David Allen Green, a journalist and lawyer for the New Statesman. Tweeting as "Jack of Kent," he wrote, "What was the point of winning either World War if, in 2012, someone can be casually arrested by Kent Police for burning a poppy?"

Another Twitter user, Tom Williams, wrote, "The scary thing is, the man wasn't arrested for burning poppy - that's not illegal. He was arrested for putting in online."

Another user, with the handle @thisisrjg," tweeted, "We do not have a right to not be offended. We certainly don't have a right to lock up someone for offending some people."

"Kent Police need to urgently release this man and drop an utterly ridiculous investigation into something that has harmed no one," Nick Pickles, director of advocacy group Big Brother Watch, told the London Telegraph.

"It is not illegal to offend people and, however idiotic or insensitive the picture may have been, it is certainly not worthy of arrest. This case highlights the urgent need to reform a law that poses a serious risk to freedom of speech after several ludicrous prosecutions in recent months," he added.

Others who are concerned about the rights-chilling nature of the arrest spoke out as well, and how its politically correct nature is at odds with the right of free expression.

"Causing offense, showing poor judgment or expressing views which people find to be in bad taste should not amount to criminal prosecution," said Agnes Callamard, executive director of a freedom of speech group known as Article 19, named after Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"You don't have to support this man's views to support his right to be able to express them," she said. "Censorship and violations against human rights are values which were fought over during the world wars, which makes this case somewhat ironic."

The 'new tyrant' is political correctness

A blogger for the London Guardian newspaper, Ally Fogg, pointed out that the police action in this case represents "the latest step towards a new totalitarianism."

"It is now clear that a new criminal code has been imposed upon us without announcement or debate. It is now a crime to be offensive," Fogg wrote. "We are not sleepwalking into a new totalitarianism - we have woken up to find ourselves tangled in its sheets."

"The new tyrant is not an oligarch or a chief of secret police, but an amorphous, self-righteous tide of populist opinion that demands conformity to a strict set of moral values," he continued. "What we are seeing has less to do with the iron heel than with the pitchfork."

From the picture, it's not even clear that House was engaging in any sort of protest, though there are a number of people in Britain who have spoken out against the pomp and circumstance of remembrance day and, most especially, the use of the poppy as a symbol of commemoration.


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