There has been a disturbing increase in acts of overt racism in the few days since Brexit. The police are on high alert. Many of us feel both angry and frustrated at this situation and are looking for ways to have a positive impact. As much as the political class has to answer for it is impossible to ignore the contribution of the media to this atmosphere of division. There are certain publications among the UK press that have been inciting discrimination, hostility and violence for many years. This is now escalating to dangerous levels.
Take action against hateful language in the UK press
Today I sent a letter to my MP and several Lords. I urged them to hold the UK press accountable for its role in the rising tide of racism. There have been countless articles that violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. There have been countless lies, many of which have gone unchallenged. Though the press is in collusion with elements of government neither controls the other outright. There are enough MPs in a position to push for better press regulation in the spirit of international law and we believe this is what we should ask them to do.
We suggest the following steps:
- Publicly confront Katie Hopkins and The Sun et al by any means available openly. Call them out for inciting discrimination, hostility and violence. Point to the increase in racial violence we are witnessing now. Point to specific articles, point to the UN’s recent statements.
- Put pressure on both the Independent Press Standards Organisation and the government (via your local elected officials) to formally reprimand The Sun for their continual breaching of Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Point to the evidence of lies being spread unaccountably & irresponsibly.
- Encourage both individuals and businesses to boycott certain publications on the grounds that they are causing dangerous divisions in our society.
- There is a noticeable lack of positive language particularly among the tabloids. Not only should there be a push against the negative but also an encouragement of the opposite. We need more publications aimed at the same audiences that represent the voice of unity and equality. It is beyond the scope of this campaign to launch a new publication but the seed may be planted.
I want to draw your attention to the rising tide of violence motivated by racist, xenophobic and religious hatred in the wake of Brexit. As a constituent and human being I feel both angry and frustratingly powerless to stem this tide.
There is one course of action available to us that is, in my opinion, long overdue. We must hold the UK press accountable for inciting discrimination, hostility and violence. To cite a widely known recent example Katie Hopkins published an article in The Sun in which she states ‘Make no mistake these migrants are like cockroaches.’
Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that: “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”
It is difficult to see how Hopkins’ piece does not qualify under Article 20. Complaints were made against her and the editor of The Sun but the IPSO dismissed them. The UN Human Rights Commissioner denounced The Sun stating that ‘the use of word “cockroaches” in Ms Hopkins’ column was “very similar” to that employed by Rwanda’s Kangura newspaper and Radio Mille Collines during the run up to the 1994 genocide, as well as in the Nazi media.’ He urged the UK government, media and regulators to respect national and international laws on curbing incitement to hatred. This extraordinary intervention from the UN was simply ignored.
I believe the dismissal of the complaints against Hopkins and The Sun empowered the press to keep making a business out of inciting discrimination. This does clear, demonstrable long term harm to society and we are now beginning to see the effects reaching an apex of expression. Surely the time has come to hold these writers and publications accountable? Surely with the nation falling to pieces the last thing we need are widespread messages of hatred & division every day?
I am always an advocate of free speech but the sheer reach of mass media in particular also carries an enormous responsibility for shaping and influencing the thoughts and emotions of society. That is why the UN drafted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We know only too well the potential consequences of inciting hatred to sell policy. This statement from Adolf Hitler that bears an uncanny resemblance to the aforementioned Sun article:
“Nature is cruel; therefore we are also entitled to be cruel. When I send the flower of German youth into the steel hail of the next war without feeling the slightest regret over the precious German blood that is being spilled, should I not also have the right to eliminate millions of an inferior race that multiplies like vermin?”
We can act now in a tangible way to ensure that the UK press respects international law. We must urgently endeavour to heal divisions by discouraging the dissemination of hateful messages. As your constituent I am pleading with you to raise this with both your party and in parliament urgently.
If enough parties united on this issue it would signal an act of good faith. This could help to restore some trust in the government. Some may object yet I believe the majority would regard it as a good move.