Members of the European Parliament have approved extraordinary measures to censor speakers accused of hate speech. MEPs granted the parliament’s president authority to pull the plug on live broadcasts of parliamentary debate deemed to include racist speech and to purge any such material from online records.
Inevitably the rules are vaguely worded and will be manipulated or used as a tool of censorship. Tom Weingaertner, president of the Brussels-based International Press Association commented:
This undermines the reliability of the Parliament’s archives at a moment where the suspicion of ‘fake news’ and manipulation threatens the credibility of the media and the politicians.
However the censorship has some British support. Richard Corbett, a Labour MEP who backed the rule said:
There have been a growing number of cases of politicians saying things that are beyond the pale of normal parliamentary discussion and debate,
What if this became not isolated incidents, but specific, where people could say: ‘Hey, this is a fantastic platform. It’s broad, it’s live-streamed. It can be recorded and repeated. Let’s use it for something more vociferous, more spectacular
Rule 165 of the parliament’s rules of procedure allows the chair of debates to halt the live broadcast in the case of defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behavior by a member. The would also be a fine for transgressors of around 9,000 euros.
The new rule, which was not made public by the assemble until it was reported by Spain’s La Vanguardia newspaper, offending material could be deleted from the audiovisual record of proceedings, meaning citizens would never know it happened unless reporters were in the room.
Weingaertner said the IPA was never consulted on that.