Animal rights group in court to overturn ad ban

Animal Defenders International today argued that the ban imposed on an advertisement it produced to highlight the four main threats facing primates contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.

The ad, produced as part of ADI’s My Mate’s a Primate campaign, was banned by the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre in March 2006 because the group is deemed to be political under the Communications Act 2003. ADI issued a High Court challenge on the grounds that the ban had been drafted too widely, and consequently violated the freedom of expression of NGOs and their ability to engage in debate using broadcast media.

ADI also argued that the act is unfair because, for example, oil companies could broadcast advertisements trumpeting their green credentials, but environmental organisations such as Greenpeace could not respond through broadcast media.

ADI lost its court case in the High Court in October last year, but the court felt that the case needed to be heard and allowed ADI to leapfrog the Court of Appeal and take the case straight to the House of Lords.

On the first day of the hearing today, ADI argued that the ban is not a justified interference with the right to freedom of expression because it is unnecessary and disproportionate.

The Department for Culture Media and Sport will tomorrow defend the ban and ADI will have the opportunity to briefly respond.

If ADI succeeds, the Government will have to amend the Communications Act 2003, potentially giving the green light to other NGOs to campaign and fundraise through television and radio.

If ADI loses, it will look for a sponsor to help take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI, said it was too early to predict the outcome of the case, but expressed optimism. “I think that Baroness Kennedy and the Advisory Group on Campaigning and the Voluntary Sector have really helped our case by calling for the Communications Act 2003 to be changed to allow campaigning organisations to advertise using broadcast media,” she said.

The advisory group, which reported in May this year, called for a relaxation on the rules governing the activities of campaigning groups, including allowing organisations to dedicate 100 per cent of their resources to political campaigning (Third Sector, 23 May 2007).

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