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NEW PM SHOULD DO MORE TO PROTECT FREE SPEECH

Free expression groups in the U.K. are demanding that newly crowned Prime Minister Gordon Brown protects whistleblowers, respects the right to protest and scraps proposals to restrict the Freedom of Information Act - and ultimately does a better job than outgoing Tony Blair in defending free speech.

IFEX members ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship, along with English PEN, have set Brown straight with a 10-point plan to protect and promote free expression and help him realise his promise of an "open government."

Points include scrapping recent parliamentary proposals to limit the Freedom of Information Act, like a draft amendment to bar access to details of MPs' expenses; restoring the right to protest outside the Houses of Parliament without authorisation; and introducing a public interest defence for whistleblowers.

While Blair introduced "groundbreaking measures" on human rights and freedom of information when he first came to power in 1997, "the standards set out in these landmark acts have slipped through the fingers of successive parliaments," the groups say.

Other points under the plan include abolishing the vague offence of "glorifying terrorism", decriminalising defamation and burying other dead laws like sedition and blasphemy, as well as guaranteeing that sufficient parts of the digital broadcasting spectrum are reserved for citizen and community use.

"We hope to see real movement under the 10 headings during Gordon Brown's first 100 days in office. We will be watching," the groups warn. In October the groups will publish a progress report.

To see all 10 points visit:
- ARTICLE 19: http://tinyurl.com/yq32nj
- English PEN: http://www.englishpen.org/news/_1633/
- Index: http://tinyurl.com/25omun
(3 July 2007)

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