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

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...
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‘English-only’ policy confirmed to be rescinded

It was confirmed before the High Court on Friday that Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has officially rescinded it’s ‘English-only’ policy for street signs.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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