UK: Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill could criminalise expression and opinions

Freedom of expression organisation, ARTICLE 19 has warned that the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill poses a threat to freedom of conscience, thought and religion and freedom of expression online. The Bill will receive its second reading in the House of Lords today October 9, 2018.

Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, Thomas Hughes said:

“The Government already has sweeping counterterrorism powers under the problematic Terrorism Act 2000.  This additional legislation would see an unprecedented attempt to criminalise expressing opinions or viewing materials in the UK, even if people have no intention of causing harm to others. The powers in the Bill are disproportionate and would in themselves undermine democracy, freedom and rights.”

ARTICLE 19 have called for a number of controversial clauses to be rejected, including 1-3 below:

Expressions of support for a proscribed organisation: UK citizens could face up to ten years in prison for expressing an “opinion or belief” that is “supportive” of a proscribed organization, and in doing so being “reckless” as to whether a person to whom the expression is directed will be encouraged to support a proscribed organisation. This would criminalise the expression of opinions and beliefs. The Bill does not define “supportive” or indicate how that might be interpreted.

Publication of images: UK citizens could face up to six months in prison for publishing an image of clothing or “any other article” that might imply that someone was a member of a proscribed organisation – for example a picture with an ISIS flag or imagery associated with the many proscribed organisations in Northern Ireland. (As of December 2017, 74 international organisations and 14 organisations were proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000.) Again, this power is overly broad; an image in itself does not mean that someone will incite harm against others.

Obtaining or viewing material over the Internet: UK citizens could face up to 15 years for viewing material that is, “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism,” whether or not they intended to act on it. Downloading or viewing content – even the same material – three times, would be considered a pattern of behaviour. This poses a threat to the freedom of expression of investigative journalists, academics and those that may be merely curious about terrorists’ ideologies and actions.


To arrange interviews or for more information, please contact: Pam Cowburn,, 07749 785 932.

Notes to editors

ARTICLE 19’s parliamentary submission on the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill is available here.