World Press Freedom Day: Joanna Cherry's cancelled Stand comedy club appearance and protesters preventing gender documentary screening at Edinburgh University are signs that free speech is under attack – John McLellan

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Yesterday was World Press Freedom Day, and in this age of politically driven cancellation, the role of a free press is more vital than ever.

Here in Edinburgh, once the City of Enlightenment, we are witnessing the deliberate closing down of debate and attacks on freedom of expression on an alarmingly frequent basis, from the now weekly disruption of First Minister’s Questions to the ostracising of democratically elected politicians because of their views.

The decision by The Stand comedy club to scrap a discussion with Joanna Cherry MP because of her views on gender is just the latest in a campaign to marginalise gender-critical opinion, and while a private institution is entitled to ban whoever it wants, it’s rich coming from a venue which supposedly should be celebrating challenging points of view.

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It might be easy to brush off a comedy club cancellation as a bad joke, but not so Edinburgh University’s inaction in allowing demonstrators to prevent the showing of a documentary for the second time, just because a minority don’t like its content. Promising an investigation after the blockade is all well and good, but the damage has been done.

Not that they’d recognise the contradiction, but those who support the aggressive limitation on democratic debate are often the same people railing against the “anti-democratic” monarchy. Thankfully, we have a free media to report these assaults on free thinking, but if shutting down debate becomes normalised then it is not that long a hop before the press itself becomes a target.

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