Media By: Adam Wagner


Introducing… the Human Rights Information Project

27 January 2015 by

PrintSome exciting news.

I have a new project. The aim is to change the face of human rights. 

As readers of this blog will know, I often complain about bad human rights journalism. But inadequate reporting is a symptom of a deeper problem: poor public understanding of human rights.

It is time to do something about it. Introducing the Human Rights Information Project (HRIP).

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BBC News on anti-terrorism law and human rights

19 January 2015 by

I took part in a debate on the BBC World News today on some of the anti-terrorism law proposals and the impact on human rights. We only covered one aspect of the raft of anti-terrorism laws which are currently making their way through Parliament – see Angela Patrick’s detailed post from last week, which is highly recommended.

You can watch the five-minute debate below.

Paris attacks show need to scrap Human Rights Act, says Tory MP with no understanding of the Human Rights Act

8 January 2015 by

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 15.38.28I will keep this short. David Davies MP (not David Davis MP) has posted on his official blog that the Paris attacks show that the Human Rights Act should be repealed. His reasoning is spurious. He does not understand the law. He misrepresents the Human Rights Act. I will explain why below. But first, here is his post in full:
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We are not all Charlie Hebdo, but we are all afraid

8 January 2015 by

B6yHQVaCAAAsDNWLast night I tweeted that none of the UK newspapers has dared to show a single cartoon from the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine on today’s front pages. This has been retweeted over 1,500 times and counting. For the Twitter-unitiated, that is a lot. My tweet hit a nerve and I want to explain why I think that is.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre was, for me, even more affecting that the usual indiscriminate Islamist terror attacks. The gunmen targeted political satirists and cartoonists – they killed the clowns. At base it was, as has been said a million times already, an attack on freedom.

Charlie Hebdo is a left-wing satirical magazine. Safe to say it is anti-religious, amongst other things. It has printed many cartoons of religious leaders including of Mohammed. The magazine’s offices were firebombed in 2011 after it changed its title to Charia Hebdo (a play on Sharia, the Islamic system of law). Its staff were under constant threat but remained unbowed.

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UK Human Rights Blog – 2014 in review

29 December 2014 by

WordPress.com, the blogging software we use to make the blog, prepared a 2014 annual report. We had almost a million hits and have crashed through the 2,000 post barrier since our launch in 2010. Thanks for reading and here is for a very interesting 2015. Adam Wagner

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 890,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 38 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Super Grieve strikes again: Tory human rights plans would be “devastating” for the UK

4 December 2014 by

Super Grieve (UK Human Rights Blog)Dominic Grieve QC was appointed as the Coalition Government’s Attorney General in May 2010. He remained in post until July 2014 when he was sacked. He said he would “happily” have stayed on, but the reality was that he could not support the Conservative Party’s radical plans to reform UK human rights law. 

Since then he has become a fierce and impassioned critic of the Tory plans, somewhat surprisingly given his public persona which is otherwise calm and lawyerly. He has produced two detailed, and devastating, critiques: the first in Prospect Magazine and then last night in a lecture at University College London. Both are highly recommended as measured and unarguably correct analyses of the Tory plan.

To my mind, Dominic Grieve QC is a bit of a hero. He has stood up for principle at the expense of his political career. He did not just resign in disgust, he then made it his business to explain to people – and particularly those on the Right – why the Tory plans would be “devastating both for ourselves domestically as it will be for the future of the Convention” (p.24).

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Kenyan President uses Tory human rights plans to defend war crimes charges

24 October 2014 by

Photo credit: Guardian.co.uk

Photo credit: Guardian.co.uk

It is easy to forget that our domestic debate over the European Convention on Human Rights might be having an international impact. But the UK is only one of 47 states which is party to the Convention, and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg protects over 800 million people.

This morning, we brought you exclusive interviews with survivors of the Beslan massacre who are rightly worried that if the UK leaves the Convention, or even threatens to leave as the Conservatives did recently, that will affect their fight for justice. In short, Vladimir Putin would have a ready excuse for ignoring any conclusions reached by the Court.

Well, here is another example of the effect which political trash-talking about the ECHR can have. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is facing war crimes charges in the Hague relating to ethnic violence which erupted after the 2007 elections leaving 1,200 dead and 600,000 displaced.

He has recently stepped down in order to face the charges. He made a speech to the Kenyan Parliament (PDF) on 6 October strongly asserting Kenya’s “sovereignty”, and in doing so he said this:
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Apocalypse soon: The Conservatives reveal their real plans for human rights

3 October 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 22.47.13It turns out that the Prime Minister missed out the really important bits about the Tory plans for human rights reform from his Conference speech. My cautious optimism in my post was entirely misplaced too. 

We will be covering the announcements in detail in the coming days, but in the meantime, the full proposals, named, with major chutzpahProtecting Human Rights in the UK, are here.

My provisional thoughts are below, subject to the qualifier that many of the wackier proposals in this document are highly unlikely to make it through Parliament, even if the Conservative Party wins a majority in the next election. In that sense, this may be more about electoral politics than a solid plan. But for the purpose of this post I will assume the document is a serious proposal and not just a major trolling exercise.

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Five things we learned from Cameron’s human rights announcement

1 October 2014 by

9e422861-3131-40b3-a703-62426b2d1c9a-620x372There was some surprise at the lack of detail over human rights in Justice Secretary Chris Grayling and Home Secretary Theresa May’s speeches yesterday. Now, David Cameron has revealed all. Or at least, he has revealed some. Here is what we learned.

1. The Conservative Party will not be leaving the European Convention on Human Rights if it obtains a majority in 2015-2020.

This is the really important bit, as everyone knew the longstanding Tory policy of repealing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a Bill of Rights (see below) would be maintained. There has been plenty of noise from the Eurosceptic right of the party in relation to the ECHR – both Grayling and May have consistently said leaving was a possibility. But surely now it is not. Or at least, if it intends to do so it would be very odd for that major policy not to have been mentioned at the Conference.

2. Saner heads have prevailed over the ECHR
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Is this the best human rights correction ever? Or the worst?

29 September 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 13.11.53Even by the usual brazen standards of human rights reporting, this correction from The Daily Mail stands out. Obviously, we weren’t meant to take Richard Littlejohn’s August 2014 comment piece seriously, it being semi-rabid comment bait, but surely the article should have included a health warning to that effect?

In”seriousness”, the Mail’s response to the false claim that “Others have won the ‘right’ to heroin and gay porn behind bars” is pathetic. The claim which has been corrected was not presented as a joke and it would not have been understood as one. As it happens, Littlejohn was probably referring to the longstanding human rights myth that a serial killer, Dennis Nilsen, was allowed to receive hardcore gay porn in jail thanks to human rights law. His case was in actual fact refused permission to proceed in the High Court – page 30 of this government report gives  more detail:

Dennis Nilsen’s application was refused by the single judge at the permission stage. He did not establish that there was any arguable case that a breach of his human rights had occurred, nor that the prison’s rules were discriminatory. He also failed to receive any greater access to such materials as a result. The failure of his application at the first hurdle was not widely reported, nor his further failure on renewal.

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The Monstering of Human Rights

22 September 2014 by

On Friday 19 September I spoke at a very interesting conference at the University of Liverpool on Human Rights in the UK Media: Representation and Reality. My talk was entitled The Monstering of Human Rights. You can download it by clicking here (PDF). It is also embedded below.

As always, comments are welcome. There is quite a lot in there tying together some of the themes I have been writing about over the past few years. As a number of people pointed out in Liverpool, it is too easy to point to errors in human rights reporting as proof that all criticisms of the human rights system are bogus, which is clearly wrong. But nonetheless, misinformation and exaggeration is an important feature of the public debate on human rights and it is interesting to consider why that might be the case, and – a question which has troubled me over the past few years – how to stop it happening.

I expect the issue of human rights reform will arise again now that the Scottish referendum process has concluded and the political parties are setting out their agendas for 2015. It seems pretty clear that the Conservative Party will promise to repeal the Human Rights Act but what they will do in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights is still very much an unknown. My expectation is that they will not promise to withdraw from the ECHR. Not yet, anyway. Labour and the Liberal Democrats are likely to retain the existing system, with a few tweaks. But whoever wins the election, there is a huge amount of work to be done to repair the reputation of human rights laws in the UK and convince the public that they are, on balance, a good thing.

PS. if any kind soul would like to turn the PDF version into a HTML linked blog-ready post, I would be eternally grateful! Email me if you would be interested, you would of course get full credit in the ensuing post/s.

View this document on Scribd

The Sun’s aggressive, then submissive, response to my complaint on its human rights reporting

17 September 2014 by

BxuWgJ_IYAAawwN.jpg-largeThe Sun have printed another correction today in relation to its misleading human rights reporting. The correction, on page 2, can be read online or to the right of this post.

The correction was the outcome of a complaint I made about this article – I posted on it here. The main part of the correction relates to the entirely false claim that “The European Court stopped a British judge imposing a whole-life tariff on Ian McLoughlin”. The reality is that although judges were unsure whether they could impose the orders following Vinter v UK in the European Court of Human Rights, the Court of Appeal clarified in February 2014 that they definitely could. The Sun have now admitted that was the case.

I am happy that the correction has been made although as I have said before, the damage has to a large extent been done as – let’s be honest – how many people read the clarifications and corrections box (which is located immediately adjacent to the eye-catching Page 3…).

But what I found most interesting about the process, which was started by the Press Complaints Commission and concluded by its post-Leveson successor, the Indepenndent Press Standards Orgaisation (IPSO), was the initial response to my complaint (PDF here) by The Sun’s Ombudsman, Philippa Kennedy OBE, which I thought was needlessly aggressive and demonstrates a worrying approach to this issue. I will select a few choice quotes:

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Three human rights events

11 September 2014 by

roadshowA quick note to alert you to three events I am speaking at in the next few weeks which may be of interest to readers. I’m on a bit of a roadshow.

1. Do religious courts protect human rights? 16 September 2014, 6:30pm

Well, do they? Come to JW3 on Finchley Road and find out! The event is organised by René Cassin and the UK Task Force. It is free but you need to register.

2. Human Rights in the UK Media: Representation and Reality, Friday 19 September 2014, 9:00am-5:30pm

I am excited for this conference at Liverpool University. There are a lot of excellent speakers, not least Professor David Mead who is giving the keynote. Register here (£25/£15 for students).

3. From Magna Carta to ECHR: do we need a British Bill of Rights? Monday 6 October 2014, 18:30-20:00

This is part of the Battle of Ideas festive. The event is at Foyles Bookshop on Charing Cross Road. The event should be sparky given the range of views on the panel: as well as me, Helen Mountfield QC, Jon Holbrook and Rupert Myers. Chaired by David Bowden. £7.50/£5 concessions.

No, The Sun, “Euro judges” do not “go against UK in 3 out of 5 cases”. More like 1 in 100.

27 August 2014 by

SUN WRONG AGAIN AGAINUpdated x 2 | At the risk of sounding like a broken record, The Sun has got it badly wrong on human rights. Again. On 24 August 2014 Craig Woodhouse reported that “Euro judges go against UK in 3 out of 5 cases(£). This is false and seriously misleading.

I explored this issue in detail back in 2012 when the Daily Mail as well as others claimed that the UK loses 3 out of 4 cases. Since that debacle, the European Court of Human Rights has produced some very clear documents on the statistics page of its website.

According to page 8 of this document, there have been 22,065 applications against UK 1959-2013. That means that 22,065 people or so have brought cases against the UK. Of those cases, there have been 297 resulting in a violation.

I am no statistician but 297 as a percentage of 22,065 is not “3 out of 5”. It is in fact 1.35%. Less than 2 in 100.

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The right outcome: Tricycle Theatre reverses UK Jewish Film Festival ban

15 August 2014 by

TRICYCLE-UKJFFAs a brief update to my post from last week. The Tricycle Theatre and the UK Jewish Film Festival have settled their differences after an agreement was struck to end the theatre’s refusal to host the festival.

Despite its previously robust defence of the decision, the Tricycle appears to have entirely relented on the issue of Israeli Embassy funding. A joint statement has been published, stating amongst other things:

‘Some weeks ago the UKJFF fell out, very publicly, with the Tricycle over a condition imposed by the Tricycle regarding funding. This provoked considerable public upset. Both organisations have come together to end that. Following lengthy discussions between the Tricycle and UKJFF, the Tricycle has now withdrawn its objection and invited back the UK Jewish Film Festival on the same terms as in previous years with no restrictions on funding from the Embassy of Israel in London. The UKJFF and the Tricycle have agreed to work together to rebuild their relationship and although the festival is not able to return in 2014, we hope to begin the process of rebuilding trust and confidence with a view to holding events in the future.

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