Promoting Justice /
Protecting Rights

Freedom of Expression

The freedoms of expression and assembly are closely related and represent one of the basic pillars of a democratic society.

These freedoms are frequently amongst the prime targets of authoritarian or populist governments and are routinely denied in many countries across the world. They also have a particular resonance in Northern Ireland given the past of flagrantly discriminatory policing directed at preventing nationalist expression and the present of a marching culture in the unionist community but also in parts of the nationalist community. Internationally, there is something of a division between those who uphold an unfettered freedom of expression, whatever the discriminatory or intimidatory content, and the other extreme of those who wish to impose, for example, blasphemy laws or the banning of any “offensive” content.

CAJ takes its stand on upholding the freedoms of expression and assembly but at the same time abiding by international treaties, jurisprudence and soft law which demand the outlawing of racist expression that leads directly to violence or discrimination and legitimate restrictions in the context of competing rights. However, it cannot be denied that this is an area where legal certainty has by no means been absolute – where to “draw the line” between protected free speech, even when offensive, and prohibited hate speech is not always clear. It is one of CAJ’s priorities to contribute to legal clarity in this area.

Latest press releases and publications

10
Dec

CAJ Annual Report 2018

CAJ marks another year spent promoting justice and protecting rights in our Annual Report 2018. It’s been an eventful twelve months for the CAJ team, not least because of the human rights implications of the UK’s impending exit from the EU. Introduction to the report: People in Northern Ireland are sometimes accused, not always unjustly,...
20
Nov

Equality Coalition Panel Discussion: Attacks on human rights defenders in Northern Ireland in 2018

When: 11am to 1pm, Tuesday 11 December 2018 Where: UNISON, Galway House, Belfast As part of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Festival 2018, the Equality Coalition invite to you to a panel discussion on the increasingly hostile environment faced by human rights defenders. Online abuse, trolling and threats have become common place in the digital...
31
Oct

Just News Autumn 2018

Inside this issue: Belfast journalists reject recent attacks on media freedom. Experts provide commentary on the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill and the latest legacy proposals for Northern Ireland. We examine how one council’s ban on Irish street signage ended badly in court and highlight new research which shows Brexit may weaken human rights protections....
25
Oct

Groups urge House of Lords to rethink Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill

CAJ joins with eight other UK organisations to share concerns about proposed legislation. The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill would restrict freedom of expression and press freedom, threaten the protection of journalistic sources, and undermine academic research in Britain. It would limit the right to access information online and it would sneak in a new, harsh border regime for...
18
Oct

Local Councils, Obligations and The Irish Language: A Framework for Compliance

Working with Conradh na Gaeilge, we have produced a report documenting how commitments made by the UK government in relation to the Irish language have been put into practice by councils in Northern Ireland. Local councils have an important role to play in fulfilling state duties in relation to the Irish language. This is because...
20
Sep

Submission on Mid Ulster Council’s draft policy for the management of bonfires

Mid Ulster Council has produced a comprehensive draft policy that seeks to address the environmental and social impacts of all bonfires held on council-owned property in the Mid Ulster area. The Council held a 13 week-long consultation on the policy across the summer, to which CAJ has responded. Our submission broadly welcomes the policy. We...
10
Sep

‘English-only’ policy confirmed to be rescinded

It was confirmed before the High Court on Friday that Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has officially rescinded it’s ‘English-only’ policy for street signs. This policy was introduced in February 2018 after a request was made by Abbeyville Residents Association in Newtownabbey to have a small number of street signs in their area expressed in...
27
Apr

Incitement to Hatred in Northern Ireland – Research Report by Dr Robbie McVeigh for the Equality Coalition

The current approach to addressing incitement to hatred in Northern Ireland is not working. There is copious evidence of hatred – particularly racism, sectarianism and homophobia – and its consequences – most obviously evidenced in what is characterised as ‘hate crime’. Moreover, there is ample evidence of incitement to hatred as it is characterised in...

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