Conservative journalist Peter Hitchens has hit out at the University of Portsmouth after it postponed his talk because of his “unacceptable” opinions. He accused it of surrendering freedom of speech and rushing to silence dissent.
Hitchens was due to speak at the university on February 12, but its students’ union has announced that the Mail on Sunday columnist’s event will be delayed so that it does not clash with their month of LGBT+ celebrations.
They argue that Hitchen’s views “are not necessarily aligned with the… LGBT+ community.” The journalist has taken to social media to condemn the decision, accusing the university of taking on the role of the Orwellian thought police.
Thought Police alert: Portsmouth University Students’ Union have ‘postponed’a meeting I was due address next Tuesday, because my opinions are unacceptable. Poor old Pompey has suffered so much in defence of English freedom, and this is how it all ends. https://t.co/oYtBLCnWkN
— Peter Hitchens (@ClarkeMicah) February 6, 2019
He added: “Censorship and thought policing are the future. Our schools teach their pupils what to think, not how to think. So they are afraid of dissent.
“Heaven help us when these people come into government, law and media in large numbers.”
The union’s president, Violet Karapaseva, has rejected Hitchen’s claims, insisting: “We are committed to ensuring freedom of speech on the University of Portsmouth campus.” Later, its Twitter account said that Hitchens has been asked to decide on some alternative dates to make his appearance, on the condition that “there is continued appetite for debate.”
The response has been rebuked by the journalist, who called them “twaddle,” and accused the union of “surrendering the principle of freedom of speech.”
Hitchens then proceeded to unleash a series of scathing tweets against the university, claiming he will be avoiding its premises the next time he visits the place which he describes as having been a “great fortress of England’s liberty for centuries.”
2. @PortsmouthSU. Once you have surrendered the principle of free speech once, you can never be relied upon to defend it again. Why would anyone accept any invitation from you, ever again? You could ‘postpone’ it in seconds, because someone got up a petition. https://t.co/fkaJtC53Q2
— Peter Hitchens (@ClarkeMicah) February 7, 2019
Concerns over threats to freedom of speech at universities has prompted the UK government to issue guidance to ensure that campuses remain a “forum for open and robust enquiry.”
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