A veteran human rights activist has spoken out against a prevailing culture of ‘no-platforming’ that is rapidly becoming a barrier to freedom of speech.
Peter Tatchell, 64, spoke to students at Lambeth College last Wednesday (March 9). In his discussion of human rights, he made reference to Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1988 – the right to freedom of expression.
Last month, Mr Tatchell was refused a platform with NUS LGBT representative Fran Cowling at Canterbury Christ Church University after she accused him of racism and transphobia, because of his views against the no-platform policy.
On Wednesday, Mr Tatchell said: “The National Union of Students’ no-platform and safe space policy is well intended. The purpose is to protect weak and vulnerable and marginalised individuals and communities, and that’s entirely laudable.
“The problem is the way it’s often being interpreted is actually closing down free speech and open debate.”
Last year, ex-Muslim human rights activist Maryam Namazie was refused a platform at Warwick University for fears her critique of Islamism would be offensive to Muslim students. She also had a speech disrupted by Goldsmith University’s Islamic Society.
Attempts to stop controversial feminist writer Germain Greer from speaking, because of her unpopular comments about transgender women, were also condemned by Mr Tatchell.
He said: “I agree with trans people that she is vile in some of the things she’s said about trans people – really, really wrong; really, really offensive. But I think banning her is not the way to go. I think debating her is better.”
Mr Tatchell said that, by interrogating controversial views publicly, people are entitled to come to reasonable, informed decisions about a topic – a more effective strategy than stopping them from being expressed.
A protest organised by The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain will take place on 17 March outside the NUS headquarters in London, calling for a revision of the no-platform and safe space policies.