Tuesday, March 20, 2012
U.K. teenager charged for Facebook comment
Azhar Ahmed made a comment on Facebook about the six British soldiers killed last week in Afghanistan. What there was of cognitive content to his comment was that people made a big fuss about the deaths of the British soldiers but paid little attention to the deaths of Afghans. Most of the post is comprised of insults in vulgar and often vicious language. The text of the message can be found here.
I have never favored legislation against hate speech. Legislation just leads to those who express this hate becoming even more alienated. They feel--correctly in my opinion--that the government is suppressing them. However many countries have such laws including Canada. At first Ahmed was charged with "racially aggravated public order offences". For some reason they decided against going ahead with that charge. Perhaps because the rant does not seem to be directed at any racial group but at UK soldiers and their supporters. The charge has been changed to sending a grossly offensive message. U.S. talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh better stay away from the U.K.
For his part Ahmed has pleaded not guilty and maintained that he did not make the posting in the first place. I suppose it is quite possible that someone else put it there to get Ahmed in trouble.
The prosecutors are already rounding up witnesses who say they found the post offensive. Police were posted around the courthouse where Ahmed appear for a hearing. About 50 protesters shouted "jail to those who insult our troops." Ahmed has been released on bail and will face another hearing in July. For more see this article. I wonder why Facebook is not being charged for allowing the comment to appear on its pages?