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The Value of Freedom

One of the threads that run throughout my book ‘Comments of a Common Man (Edition 3)’ is that the freedoms we take for granted in the UK are under threat like never before. To look at the daily demonstrations seen outside the Houses of Parliament in London, and similar events held up and down the country, one might be inclined take that statement with more than a pinch of salt.

However, if one also looks more deeply into the question of freedom, a different picture emerges. Yes, we do take for granted our ability go where we wish to, when we wish to and how we wish to. We also assume we are free to say what we want and write want we want, and by which medium, including social media. What we say and write does have some restrictions but these are usually limited to not using profane language and not making statements we know to be false; to not make fake allegations against somebody.

Yet the use of bad language and the making of such fake allegations are now widespread. The most obvious avenue for ordinary people to vent their spleen is social media platforms like Twitter, which has become almost notorious for the manner in which some users behave. Violent and threatening terminology is routinely used on it and the criticism aimed at Twitter can thus be said to be justified - so is it?

No, not really. In a genuinely free country such a platform has a right to exist and to give its users the freedom to speak as they please. What its user’s actually say via their written words however, may be a different matter. The restrictions that can reasonably be placed upon it are the same restrictions that are placed on mainstream news media and everywhere else – including KJM Today.

What we say must be phrased without using inflammatory terms, without making unfounded allegations and so on – Twitter’s critics should thus aim their remarks at its users rather than the platform itself. But Twitter’s critics want to either shut it down or make it police itself, which inevitably means that it will, if forced to by law, censor its users. And censorship is one of the means by which oppressive movements, including Governments, will subjugate ordinary people.

Another is to restrict generally, by any means, the activities of journalists. Broadly speaking, journalists tend to be looked at twice by many and it is true to say that, in the past, some journalists and the publications they produce their material for (written or photographed) have not helped themselves. But we live in different times now. There is, and for the right reasons, a greater discipline now imposed upon those who write and take photographs or video material for their living.

But this discipline is also underpinned by actions taken by the agencies of the state, including the police.

The tools of a journalist’s trade are the pen, notebook (electronic or otherwise), computer and camera. Yet these are routinely seized by the police, despite existing protections in law to enable journalists to do their jobs, and without having their tools arbitrarily removed and without any prior notice.

If professionals like journalists can have their ability to earn a living taken away, what chance do ordinary people have?

The targeting of journalists has however, been the subject of some discussion recently. In an article for Politics Home, Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, wrote:

‘Democracy is more than voting. It’s more than politicians or Pa