Censorship Battle Set for High Court
The Vacuum V Belfast City Council
A potentially landmark Human Rights case resulting from a year-long dispute between Belfast City Council and the free cultural newspaper The Vacuum is due to take place on Tuesday September 13 2005.
The Council’s demand that the publication provide an apology to ‘citizens of the city’ and ‘members of the Council’ for offence caused in previous issues is being challenged in the High Court by one of the paper’s editors, Richard West, as a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. If successful, this will be the first time, since the coming into force of the Human Rights Act 1998, that a local authority will have been held to be in breach of an individual or organisation's right to freedom of expression as protected under the legislation.
The legal showdown comes amidst heated debate over the new Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill and its potential to curtail free expression. It also follows the debate about the play ‘Behzti’ (Dishonour) which was closed after violent protests by the Sikh community and the BBC received unprecedented numbers of complaints about the broadcast of 'Jerry Springer the Opera'.
In stark contrast to the attitude of the city authorities towards The Vacuum, its publishers, Factotum, have been selected as part of a delegation of artists to represent