An expert set to speak at the Chemical Weapons Demilitarisation (CWD) Conference received a letter informing him that, due to his online posts, he would be no longer invited to speak at the event.
Dan Kaszeta is a specialist in defence against chemical, biological, and radiological weapons and warfare. He was set to speak at the 25th annual CWD Conference, which aims to “bring together international experts and promote collaboration to achieve a future free from chemical weapons.”
Dan was asked to be a guest over five months ago but received an email last month that told him: “Rules introduced by the Cabinet Office in 2022 specify that the social media accounts of potential speakers must be vetted before final acceptance to the programme.
“The vetting is impartial and purely evidence-based. The check on your social media has identified material that criticises government officials and policy. It is for this reason and not because we do not value your technical insight that I’m afraid that we have no choice and must cancel your invitation to the CWD conference.”
Dan told BBC Newsnight that he was outraged that the government had trawled through his Twitter account – on which he poked fun at Liz Truss, expressed anti-Brexit views and criticised asylum policy”.
It, therefore, seems that a person’s expertise on a critical matter of global security, academia and armed forces is somehow less valid if they also have the audacity to make fun of Liz Truss.
Dan tweeted his feelings towards the situation, saying: “The government that is putatively against “Cancel Culture” bars me from a conference on getting rid of chemical weapons. AFTER inviting me. Because I have opinions on things unrelated to my work.”
The government said in a statement: “As the public would expect, we conduct due diligence checks and carefully consider all speakers at any government-hosted conference to ensure that we can have a balanced and constructive discussion around our policies.”
Incidents such as this seem to very much not be out of character for the British government with acts of censorship seeming to increasingly being of second nature. The newest example of course is that of The Public Order Bill being passed
Politics has progressed because of disruptive demonstrations. Governments often need to hear what protesters have to say. People thought harder about the environment because of direct action (which is now even more restricted), and racism moved up the political agenda because of the Black Lives Matter marches.
Criminalising peaceful protest is a threat to the right to stand up for what an individual believes in. Arguably, protests are not something outside the democratic process – they are a vital part of it. Politics bleeds into everything, and restricting who is heard depending on what they have to say about those in power sets a dangerous precedent.