The Society of Editors has taken part in a debate on the proposed new Hate Crime and Public Order Bill organised by the Free To Disagree Scot campaign.
The Bill, introduced in the Holyrood parliament in July, aims to extend considerably the category of banned speech. The proposed new measures would create several new categories where the communication – including reporting – of any material considered threatening or abusive under a raft of criteria would risk prosecution.
The SoE has written to the Scottish Justice Secretary expressing concerns the proposed law would stifle debate and damage free speech not just in Scotland but throughout the UK.
Taking part in the debate alongside Ian Murray, executive director of the SoE, was John McLellan, director of the Scottish Newspaper Society.
The full debate can be seen here.
In earlier statements Ian Murray had commented: “These proposals, while on the surface designed to protect vulnerable people, have the potential to usher in draconian measures where a host of pressure groups will be able to stifle or close down debate on important issues.”
“And although these are designed for Scotland, any media organisation that publishes or broadcasts north of the border could find themselves caught up or at the very least there will be a chill placed on their work.
“Looking to the future, there is also the risk that any draconian measures adopted by the Scottish government will be taken up in other parts of the UK, particularly in England and Wales where The Law Commission is currently consulting on a possible expansion in English hate-crime law.”