US-style first amendment should also cover charities

02 April 2015

John Low, Chief Executive of Charities Aid Foundation, commented: "The report on plans for US-style protection for journalism highlights a wider need to protect free speech.

"Any US-style first amendment should also cover charities, making it crystal clear in law that charities have a fundamental right to speak out on behalf of their beneficiaries. Lobbying for changes in the law to help their causes is an essential part of civil society, and it should be absolutely beyond question that charities have a right to do that.

"The Lobbying Act recently tightened restrictions on campaigning by charities, and is already having a chilling effect on the willingness of organisations to speak out on behalf of people whose voice is not always heard through the democratic process. This is extremely worrying, as campaigning has long been an essential tool for civil society organisations in driving social change and improve the lives of the marginalised and vulnerable in our society. All parties say they support charities speaking out, so it is essential that they make this absolutely clear in law to avoid charities being silenced by the fear of falling foul of this regressive Lobbying Act.

"The Lobbying Act is internationally embarrassing for Britain,  sets a bad example to countries across the world and is validating a dangerous global trend of repressing the freedom of speech of civil society. It is perfectly legitimate for charities to influence Government and political parties as a way of fulfilling their mission and we should support and protect their proud and historic role in our national debate."

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