Democracy 0.5: No joke, you can really get in trouble now.

Matthew Woods recently received a 12-week sentence for ‘sending by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive.’ To summarise, he put on his Facebook page a distasteful joke about the missing toddler April Jones.

The Government has created a means by which the public can now be imprisoned for writing jokes. Nanny has got her iron out and is now scorching the kids.

But let me emphasise the double standards of this scenario:

Azhar Ahmed, 20, posted ‘all soldiers should die and go to hell’ on his Facebook page just two days after six British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan and was spared jail.

What if any are the differences between the two circumstances? It is most likely that plenty of people who see both Ahmed’s and Wood’s posts will feel similarly offended, no? Are both posts not both grossly offensive, and if so, why is there the lack of continuity in the law? Surely both offenders ought to be punished equally?

This magazine has always argued that you are not free to speak unless you are free to offend. Freedom of speech is about having the right to say what you truly think, not having the right to say what other people agree with.

We in no way justify or agree with either comment made by either party, but we do believe that such comments are definitely not criminal and therefore should not be punishable. Frankly, the freedom to offend is a sure indicator that we are free as individuals, something The Backbencher has and will continue to strive towards.



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