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23rd February 2016

Universities criticised for censoring freedom of speech

Julie Bindel has spoken out against the dangers of censorship which occurs at universities, with the University of Manchester being ranked by a survey as one of the worst offenders

Student censorship has for some time been gaining media attention across the UK. The past few months have seen the likes of academic feminist Germaine Greer banned from one university and gay rights activist Peter Tatchell criticised after making comments that some have considered offensive.

Feminist activist Julie Bindel has spoken out in a video on The Guardian‘s website after huge amounts of people signed petitions on to prevent Roosh V and Donald Trump from entering the country.

In the video, Bindel explains that simply banning people from speaking does nothing to change a problem, it just reduces awareness that people hold offensive opinions. Bindel points out that “political movements such as civils rights and feminism have made such progress because we were able to hold people accountable” and “banning people from publicly stating their views, does not make those views disappear. Banning Donald Trump from the UK won’t stop Americans voting for him.”

Julie Bindel herself was no-platformed from several universities due to the accusation that she was “transphobic”, the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union being one of them. In fact, in the 2016 annual survey of campus attitudes to free speech made by Spiked, the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union has been branded as red in the traffic light rankings of student censorship.

This ranking was awarded due to the Students’ Union banning Julie Bindel and Brietbart associate editor, Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at a feminist event. In addition, a copy of the Charlie Hebdo magazine was banned at the Refreshers’ Fair in 2015 and copies of The Sun were prevented from being sold in the Students’ Union in 2013. The highest number of bans goes to Aberystwyth University who have censored freedom of speech five times in 2013.

Since being posted on the 10th February 2016, Bindel’s video has gone viral with her view that opinions should be voiced as long as the words do not incite a crime: “let us hear the arguments put forward of those with which we disagree, so that we can expand our knowledge and show rational resistance”.

In UK law, article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to freedom of speech and prohibits censorship from the government and public bodies, including universities. This is true unless the speech needs to be stopped in the interest of protecting public safety, morals, the reputation of others, information given in confidence and to prevent the induction of violence or crime.

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