Free The Blog: On sedition
(This was originally posted at Free The Blog, part of Free the Word, this year's International PEN festival).
‘Sedition’ isn’t a word that you hear used much nowadays – at least in the developed, Western world. Terms such as ‘seditious libel’ sound quaint or archaic. But don’t be fooled – as a judicial concept, it is still available to be used by governments of all persuasions.
While in the UK the last trial of the common law offence of sedition happened in 1947, there have been other cases in the and USA and New Zealand.
What is sedition? Generally it is “the stirring up of rebellion against the government in power”. It is about encouragement to rebel, rather than betraying one’s country, as treason is.
As a concept, it’s one that governments are more than willing to use to drive through their political agenda, as well gaining control of populations or minorities they deem difficult or dangerous. While it not appear so, the provisions to ban the ‘glorification of terrorism’ in the recent UK counter-terrorism act can be considered to widen the definition of what 'seditious' behaviour is.
So if you are at this Sunday’s ‘A Short History of Sedition’ at the Young Vic, don’t forget that it’s an issue that can – and does – affect you too.