Josh Halliday and Shiv Malik report in the Guardian that several UK Police forces have visited newsagents asking for the names and addresses of people who had purchased the special edition of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, published in the wake of the terrorist attack on the magazines headquarters in Paris.
The first incident occurred in Wiltshire and was thought to be a one-off due to an overzealous Police officer; however, it has since emerged that Police in Wales and Cheshire have also visited newsagents and asked for details of purchasers.
The revelations have alarmed many privacy campaigners due to the invasion of privacy and ultimately the potential to stifle free speech by making people fearful of purchasing certain material.
In an article covering the same story in the Mail Online, Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, said:
‘The Charlie Hebdo attack brought millions of people worldwide together to condemn those who seek to silence free speech through threats of intimidation and violence.
This move by the police is entirely unacceptable. This sort of investigation would be understandable if a crime was being committed, but the fact is that they have requested information about people who have purchased a perfectly legal publication.
It is far from clear why the police thought it was acceptable to request this information or what it is that they actually intend to do with it. Considering the comments made in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris by world leaders, that free speech should be celebrated and encouraged, the moves by the police in the UK completely undermine that.”