John Storey/AP
Michael Savage

Radio Host Threatens Legal Action After Being Banned From the UK

May 07, 2009 04:55 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
U.S. shock jock Michael Savage has promised to sue the British Home Secretary after learning he’s not allowed into the U.K., sparking a look at free speech issues.

Wasn’t Seeking Admittance

Savage, whose real name is Michael Weiner, said he was “shocked” to learn he had made a list of “least wanted” people banned from the United Kingdom, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The list of 16 to 22 people, which includes “white supremacists and Islamic fanatics,” has named people who were “‘engaging in unacceptable behaviour’ by seeking to provoke violence and foster hatred.”

The San Francisco Chronicle quoted an e-mail from the spokesman for the British Consulate in San Francisco, stating that since 2005, the U.K. barred 101 people from the region for “unacceptable behavior, including animal rights extremists, right-to-life, homophobe and far-right extremists, as well as those who advocate hatred and violence in support of their religious beliefs.”
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith added “new measures that favored excluding people who have spread hatred” in 2008.

Savage, his listeners and other radio hosts have stepped up to protest his inclusion on the list. Some have called for a “boycott of Britain because of its ‘Marxist’ attitude towards free speech,” The Independent noted.
Savage said, “For this lunatic Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary of England, to link me up with skinheads who are killing people in Russia, to put me in (the same) league with mass murderers who kill Jews on buses is defamation,” according to the Telegraph.

He has also said that he plans to sue Smith for defamation because his name is on the list. According to The Independent, he added that he had not traveled to Britain in 20 years and did not apply to visit.

Jameel Jaffer, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that actions such as these demonstrate that countries are growing more willing to “use their borders as a weapon of censorship.”

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Related Topic: Free speech issues

Sparked by the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” case, recent Supreme Court rulings on obscenity have been praised by family groups and condemned by free speech advocates. CBS has so far avoided a $550,000 fine for a Super Bowl scene in which Jackson’s right breast was exposed for a fraction of a second. Review of the case has been delayed while the Supreme Court examined another matter, FCC v. Fox Television Stations, which dealt with the FCC’s rule on “fleeting expletives.”

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was recently expelled from the Czech Republic for denying the Holocaust, writes the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. A neo-Nazi group had invited Duke to the area. In the Czech Republic, denying the Holocaust can earn a person a maximum of three years in prison.

Mark Cuban’s brother has recently taken issue with Facebook over why the popular social networking site permits Holocaust denial groups, according to CNET News.

“The belief that the First Amendment protects speech in the private social media arena or at your place of employment is a common misconception,” Brian Cuban noted. While Facebook can set its own free speech rules as a private entity, Cuban stated that he feels the site’s terms of service prohibit denial of the Holocaust.

Holocaust denial is not illegal in the United States, but it is a crime in countries like Austria, France, Poland and Switzerland. Cuban said he believes the site is committing an illegal act in those countries, CNET News explained.

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