9.1.04

No smooth talking from Kilroy Silk

As reported on MediaGuardian.co.uk former MP and daytime TV show host Robert Kilroy-Silk has caused outrage with what can best be described as an anti Arab rant in his column in the Sunday Express.

Aside from its extreme and racist tone, his article showed no sense of judgement or perspective.

While racial equality groups have called on police to look into whether Kilroy-Silk's remarks amount to an offence as well as being offensive, a new row has erupted in the media.

Playing it safe and keeping impartial the BBC has suspended daytime TV show Kilroy while it looks into Mr Silk's actions. An angry Sunday Express sees this as an affront on free speech. Here the boundaries become blurred - the BBC through its status and charter has to be impartial while the Sunday Express is not known for restricting its views.

The further question arises as to banning a programme because of its content or a person because of opinions they have expressed elsewhere - do you ban the speech or the speaker?

There is no denying that certain publications and broadcasters in the Arab world would reciprocate Kilroy-Silk's comments with similar sentiment towards certain western societies but that does not exonerate either side.

Free speech is an ideal that has to be pitched against what will be tolerated by a given society. Britain is a multi-cultural and pluralistic society and whether accepted by Kilroy-Silk or not, free speech does not give journalists or TV presenters who are meant to be responsible carte blanche for airing racist remarks.

He may have a right to say things but that does not mean what he says is right.

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