Human Rights Group Tells TalkSport To Reconsider Gaunt's Firing
November 26, 2008 at 5:24 AM (PT)
UTV U.K. national Sports station TALKSPORT's firing of talk host JON GAUNT for calling REDBRIDGE COUNCIL member MICHAEL STARK a "Nazi" and "ignorant pig" on his NOVEMBER 7th show has drawn fire from an unlikely critic, human rights group LIBERTY.
THE GUARDIAN reports that LIBERTY Director SHAMI CHAKRABATI, who the conservative GAUNT has called "the most dangerous woman in BRITAIN" in his column in THE SUN, wrote a letter to station management saying, "We understand that the grounds given for summary termination are Mr GAUNT's on-air references to the 'health Nazis' he felt responsible for banning smokers from fostering children in REDBRIDGE. This strikes us as the most bizarre and disproportionate approach to someone who was no doubt contracted to excite political debate amongst a whole host of listeners who might not normally engage with news and current affairs programs."
"For present purposes, we make no comment on the substance of the childcare policy in question. However we would remind you that any court must read Mr. GAUNT's contract in the light of his right to free expression under article 10 of the Human Rights Act. Whilst this is far from an absolute right (particularly in the context of broadcasting), to be meaningful it must extend to contentious as well as consensual speech and we find it hard to envisage how your actions could possibly constitute a proportionate and lawful response to the present facts."
CHAKRABATI, whose group is offering GAUNT legal support if he sues the station, added, "While Mr. GAUNT's style may not be to everyone's taste, it is our view that no reasonable listener could have construed his comments in context as accusing the subjects of involvement in or association with Nazism. From a personal point of view as someone who has been on the receiving end of JON GAUNT's blunt polemic in print and on the radio, I believe that the airwaves of a great democracy would be the poorer for his absence. I urge you to reinstate Mr GAUNT's programme without delay and have offered him support in the unlikely and unfortunate event that recourse to the Human Rights Act proves necessary."