Last Friday the UN’s Human Rights Council took a direct swipe at freedom of expression. In a 32-0 vote, the council instructed its “expert on freedom of expression” to report to the council on all instances in which individuals “abuse” their freedom of speech by giving expression to racial or religious bias.
The measure was proposed by paragons of freedom Egypt and Pakistan. It was supported by all Arab, Muslim and African countries – founts of liberty one and all. European states abstained.
The US, which is not a member of the Human Rights Council, tried to oppose the measure. In a speech before the council, US Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Warren Tichenor warned that the resolution’s purpose is to undermine freedom of expression because it imposes “restrictions on individuals rather than emphasiz[ing] the duty and responsibility of governments to guarantee, uphold, promote and protect human rights.”
By seeking to criminalize free speech, the resolution stands in breach of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of that document states explicitly: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The Europeans’ decision to abstain rather than oppose the measure seems, at first glance, rather surprising. Given that the EU member states are among the UN’s most emphatic champions, it would have seemed normal for them to have opposed a resolution that undermines one of the UN’s foundational documents, and indeed, one of the most basic tenets of Western civilization.
But then again, given the EU’s stands in recent years against freedom of expression, there really is nothing to be surprised about. The EU’s current bow to intellectual thuggery is of course found in its response to the Internet release of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders’ film Fitna.
The EU has gone out of its way to attack Wilders for daring to exercise his freedom of expression. The EU’s presidency released a statement condemning the film for “inflaming hatred.” Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende issued statements claiming that the film “serves no other purpose than to cause offense.”
Then, too, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon blasted the film as “offensively anti-Islamic.”
These statements follow the EU’s quest to restrict freedom of speech following the 2005 publication of cartoons of Muhammed in Denmark’s Jyllands Posten newspaper. They also come against the backdrop of the systematic silencing of anti-jihadist intellectuals throughout the continent. These intellectuals, such as Peter Redeker in France and Paul Cliteur in the Netherlands, are threatened into silence by European jihadists. And the governments of Europe either do nothing to defend the threatened thinkers or justify the intellectual blackmailers by sympathizing with their anger.
IT IS axiomatic that freedom of expression is the foundation of human freedom and progress. When people are not allowed to express themselves freely, there can be no debate or inquiry. It is only due to free debate and inquiry that humanity has progressed from the Dark Age to the Digital Age. This is why the first act of every would-be tyrant is to take control of the marketplace of ideas.
Yet today, the nations of Europe and indeed much of the Western world, either sit idly by and do nothing to defend that freedom or collaborate with unfree and often tyrannical Islamic states and terrorists in silencing debate and stifling dissent.
* We put the first nail into the coffin of free speech when we sat back and allowed government in this nation to enact “hate crime laws.”Â No matter how you try to define them, hate crime laws are really thought crime laws. You’re being punished for what you think, not for what you do.