Pages tagged "International Association of Free Speech Unions"

  • Launch of a coalition across the English-speaking world to defend free speech

    By Jonathan Ayling, New Zealand Free Speech Union, and Toby Young, UK Free Speech Union

    The enemies of free speech hunt in packs, so its defenders must band together, too. This belief has long been at the heart of our work as Free Speech Unions and is why we're launching the International Association of Free Speech Unions. This is a collaboration between the Free Speech Unions of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK, shortly to be joined by an FSU in Canada

    In the face of escalating cancel culture, a rapacious appetite for censorship, and the erosion of intellectual tolerance and academic freedom around the world -- but especially in the English-speaking world -- we’re committed to standing with those individuals facing down outrage mobs on social media or attempts by the state to censor them.

    Like so many other bullies (let’s be honest, that’s the best term for these would-be Torquemadas), they’re not used to being challenged. We’ve discovered that if you push back robustly, they often back down.

    This threat is far from unique to the English speaking world, but it's especially pronounced in the Anglosphere. What exactly is it about the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa that has made them so vulnerable to censoriousness and groupthink?

    It’s difficult to say exactly. But there are striking similarities and a common collection of 'sacred cows'. Travelling from Britain to New Zealand, you might expect the conversation about free speech, and the threats it faces, to be worlds apart. Yet, as if in some bizarre episode of Star Trek where the character travels across space and time only to arrive at the very place they started from, the core issues are nearly always the same.

    There are five ‘sacred cows’ that are common across the jurisdictions covered by the IAFSU. They are:

    * Race relations
    * Sex and gender
    * COVID-19
    * Climate Change
    * International conflicts, especially Israel/Palestine

    As relatively new countries with minority indigenous populations, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada have broadly similar conversations about race. For the US and UK, the question is inextricably bound up with their history of involvement in the trans Atlantic slave trade.

    This is different again for South Africa, where the black population is in the majority.

    Despite these varying contexts, a dogma has been established about this issue and challenging it is to risk being cancelled. Questions of indigeneity, reparations, sovereignty, and so-called institutional discrimination are unavoidable, yet too often there is only one acceptable position to take. The tendency towards suppressing conversation and undermining open debate on these questions means they will continue to fester and divide. We need to be free to address them openly, without fear of reprisals, if we're to reach a settled consensus and move past them as societies.

    The same goes for the other ‘sacred cows’.

    Take climate change, for instance. Peter Ridd, the Australian physicist who challenged the prevailing orthodoxy about the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, ended up being fired from James Cook University.

    The same ideological rigidity applies to discussions about sex and gender. In three of Australia’s six states – and one territory – conversion therapy bans have been imposed that have tipped the scales away from a ‘watchful waiting’ approach to treating gender-distressed adolescents and towards an ‘affirmative care approach’. After all, what parent wants to risk losing custody of their child following an accusation of trying to ‘convert’ them from one gender to another and falling foul of the ban? Politicians who’ve expressed concern about this, such as Moira Deeming, have been branded ‘Nazis’ in an attempt to push them out of public life.

    The plethora of ‘takedown’ notices issued by the e-Safety Commission in Australia has made open discussion of these issues on social media more difficult and we’re concerned that an anti-misinformation law, which the Albanese Government has said it wants to bring in, will have a further chilling effect on free speech. Let’s not forget that Joe Biden’s team in the Whitehouse dismissed claims that he was suffering from cognitive decline as ‘misinformation’. 

The same goes double for the hate speech law that Anthony Albanese has said it wants to pass – disappointingly, not opposed by Peter Dutton. The difficulty with trying to legislate against ‘hate’, is who defines it? Another Julia Inman Grant? Among the ‘hate speech’ the Government wants to criminalise is that relating to ‘transgender identity’, and could include ‘misgendering’ a trans person. Does Dutton really want feminists who believe in the biological reality of sex to be sent to jail?

    We need to defend free speech, not further erode it, and not just because without it we cannot raise the alarm when any of our other human rights come under threat. It is also one of the fundamental freedoms that characterise the most peaceful, prosperous, stable countries in the world, particularly the Anglosphere. Respecting the individual freedom, autonomy and dignity of every person is key to why our societies are so prosperous. Some people have attacked free speech in the name of protecting vulnerable, historically marginalised groups. But the rights of minorities are better protected in our countries than anywhere else on earth -- one reason so many beleaguered groups want to make their home in our countries.

    To refuse to countenance any ‘wrongthink’ on these critical issues is to condemn each of our countries to dogmatic, ideological, close-minded responses to some of the greatest challenges we face.

    Building on the work we're doing in each of our societies, the IAFSU will work to defend the right to free speech in the Anglosphere and beyond.


  • Free Speech Union joins sister organisations in launching International Association of Free Speech Unions



    10 July 2024

    Free Speech Union joins sister organisations in launching International Association of Free Speech Unions

    The Free Speech Union is pleased to be a founding member of the International Association of Free Speech Unions (IAFSU), launched yesterday in Sydney alongside sister organisations, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union (New Zealand).

    “The enemies of free speech hunt in packs; the champions of free speech need to band together too.

    “Alongside our sister organisations in the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, (and shortly Canada), as the FSU NZ, we’re pleased to help lead the fight against the international erosion of speech rights.  

    “The Free Speech Union was first founded in the United Kingdom in 2020, with the Free Speech Union New Zealand setting up the following year. These two organisations are now the largest national advocates for free speech in their countries. We’re also joined by more recently established Unions in South Africa and Australia. A Canadian Free Speech Union will be launched in coming months.

    “The English-speaking West has led the world in championing the idea that all individuals must be free to speak. This idea has contributed to peaceful, stable, and prosperous countries. Yet this freedom is under threat by both domestic and international opponents. The International Association of Free Speech Unions (IAFSU) will support the work of established FSUs, and enable others to be founded.

    “While remaining as independent organisations, the cooperation of Free Speech Unions through the IAFSU will ensure we are each able to champion everyone’s right to speak freely domestically and respond to threats that emerge internationally.

    “Our would-be-censors are on notice; anti-free speech bullies have a fight on their hands.”


    Media contact - Jonathan Ayling 021 842 215, [email protected]

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