Extremism guidance attacks our freedom of expression

Open Rights Group has responded to the government’s announcement that it will update the definition of extremism used by government departments and officials.

Sara Chitseko, Pre-Crime Programme Manager at Open Rights Group said:

“After months of media briefings, the government announcement of its new definition of extremism seems to be more about political point scoring in an election year than a serious attempt to address extremism in the UK.

“The fact that this is non-statutory guidance means that the public are denied parliamentary scrutiny of changes that will impact freedom of expression and political engagement.”

ORG is also concerned about reports that the organisations who will fall foul of this new definition appear to be predominently groups that advocate for the rights of Muslims.

Chitseko added:

“This guidance sows further division at a time when our political leaders should be trying to bring communities together. The Government seems to have double standards on what constitutes extremism, highlighted just this week by the Conservative Party’s willingness to accept money from a donor who has made racist, misogynist comments about a fellow MP.”

Impact on Prevent

The guidance says that the new definition replaces the 2011 Prevent definition but it is not clear whether the new definition will be adopted by authorities with duties under the Prevent programme.

Chitseko added:

“We are concerned that the lack of clarity over this new definition could see even more people being referred to the government’s flawed Prevent programme.

“As our recent report showed, the majority of Prevent referees do not meet the threshold to undergo deradicalisation training but their data can be retained for years even when their case is marked ‘no further action’. This can lead to real-life harms, particularly as the majority of referees are children. The more people whose data is hoarded, the worse it will get.”

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