By Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D., The Defender
A group of 138 journalists, academics, technologists, celebrities, authors, activists, public intellectuals and thought leaders this month signed a declaration calling on the government, tech companies and the public to protect free speech and open discourse.
Prominent signatories include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whistleblower Edward Snowden, actor and filmmaker Tim Robbins, filmmaker Oliver Stone, journalist Glenn Greenwald, psychologist Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, comedian John Cleese, biologist Richard Dawkins, DPhil, DSc, Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, Ph.D., and Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker, Ph.D.
The authors of the Westminster Declaration, which warns of “increasing international censorship that threatens to erode centuries-old democratic norms,” wrote:
“Coming from the left, right, and centre, we are united by our commitment to universal human rights and freedom of speech, and we are all deeply concerned about attempts to label protected speech as ‘misinformation,’ ‘disinformation,’ and other ill-defined terms.”
Also among the signatories were people who publicly criticized official COVID-19 counternarratives, including Jay Bhattacharya, M.D., Ph.D., Martin Kulldorff, Ph.D., Dr. Aaron Kheriaty and Dr. Robert Malone, pioneer and expert in mRNA and DNA vaccines and therapies.
Catherine Austin Fitts, publisher of The Solari Report and former U.S. assistant secretary of housing and urban development, also signed the declaration. She told The Defender the declaration “communicates the widespread commitment to free speech of journalists and publishers around the world and the covenant we share to protect and support transparency.”
The declaration states:
“This abuse of these terms [‘misinformation,’ ‘disinformation’] has resulted in the censorship of ordinary people, journalists, and dissidents in countries all over the world.
“Such interference with the right to free speech suppresses valid discussion about matters of urgent public interest, and undermines the foundational principles of representative democracy.”
The declaration cites domestic and international law, including the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and specific instances where free speech rights, including speech made by some of the signatories, have been threatened by public and private actors in many countries.
According to the declaration, legal protections for free speech are being eroded by new legislation aiming to combat purported “misinformation” and “disinformation,” and by private entities, such as social media platforms and “fact-checkers,” who operate without any democratic accountability.
The Westminster Declaration resulted from a meeting of “free speech champions from around the world” who met in Westminster, London, at the end of June 2023.
The declaration, which was delivered to the office of U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, states that a “censorship-industrial complex” consisting of public, private and academic actors, is “increasingly working to monitor citizens and rob them of their voices.”
‘Entities named as part of the “censorship-industrial complex” included the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which was implicated in several “Twitter Files” releases, and “‘disinformation experts’ and ‘fact-checkers’ in the mainstream media, who have abandoned the journalistic values of debate and intellectual inquiry.”
According to the declaration:
“Although foreign disinformation between states is a real issue, agencies designed to combat these threats, such as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the United States, are increasingly being turned inward against the public.
“Under the guise of preventing harm and protecting truth, speech is being treated as a permitted activity rather than an inalienable right.”
Fitts described such actors as “a secret governance system that is financially dependent on organized crime and war and is moving to complete control of financial transactions.”
According to the declaration, “large-scale coordinated efforts” to conduct censorship” which often operate “through direct government policies.”