Just to sing
The European blog Barcepundit reports the EU is preparing regulations to restrict speech to prevent angering religious communities.
I'm afraid the esteemed Victor Davis Hanson was a tad too optimistic when he wrote that the cartoon controversy might mean an European awakening against Islamic fascism. Turns out that the European Union is planning a press code of conduct:
Plans for a European press charter committing the media to "prudence" when reporting on Islam and other religions, were unveiled yesterday.
According to Dagens Nyheter, the Swedish security services (Säpo), in collusion with Foreign Minister Leila Freivalds, have forced the website SD-Kuriren offline for publishing the Jyllands-Posten cartoons (SD-Kuriren is the house organ of the hard-right Swedish Democrats). “We think that this was the best decision after we were contacted by the Foreign Ministry and Säpo,” Anna Larsson, vice president of hosting compant Levonline, told DN. Freivalds told DN that “it is terrible that a small group of extremists are exposing Swedes to danger [by reprinting the cartoons].”
Only Europe's gonna fold right? Wrong. Here's news from Canada from Angry in the Great White North.
Shocking. Not surprising, perhaps, given Canada's tradition in recent years to value inoffensiveness over individual freedom, but I'm idealistic enough to to still be shocked:
The Cadre, UPEI's student newspaper has published the twelve infamous editorial cartoons that criticized aspects of Islam.
At the request of president Wade MacLauchlan, university administrators have removed all 2,000 copies of the paper from campus.
My God! It is something straight out of George Orwell's 1984. Thought police rounding up newspapers in order to suppress knowledge and keep the populace in peaceful complacency:
“When we realized that they were in circulation, we acted to round up the copies that were in circulation,’’ said UPEI president Wade MacLauchlan.
“We see it as a reckless invitation to public disorder and humiliation.’’
Hat tip: Anointiata Delenda Est. The EU's Frattini has issued a clarification on the statement to restrain speech pertaining to religious communities. It is quoted in full from the Daily Telegraph:
"Following the publication of an article in the 'Daily Telegraph' of today, I want to clarify any possible misunderstandings about my position in regard to the so-called "cartoons" issue.
"As Commissioner responsible for the respect for and promotion of fundamental rights I have from the very outset underlined that the freedom of press, of expression and speech, including the right to critique, constitutes one of they key pillars upon which the EU is founded.
"I do not have the legal powers nor did I ever have the political intention to limit this fundamental right in any manner whatsoever.
"Since September 2005 I am in close contact with various representatives of the media, including the European federation of journalists, on issues linked to freedom of speech. I have offered to facilitate a dialogue between the media representatives and between them and faith leaders if that would be found useful by both parties.
"In their statement of 7 February 2005 the EFJ stated that it 'has encouraged the European Commission to support a professional dialogue among media professional groups and that they welcome the fact that Commissioner Frattini is doing just that'.
"Such a dialogue would aim at discussing a number of pertinent questions which we are confronted with nowadays. One of them being 'How are we to reconcile freedom of expression and respect for each individual's deepest convictions?', a relevant question as formulated by many actors , including the International Federation of Journalists.
"It is a dialogue on such a question which I would be wiling to facilitate but I will not impose such a role on any party if such a need would not be felt. Finally, I have never suggested imposing a code of conduct on the press, it is up to the media themselves to self-regulate or not, and it is up to the media to formulate such a voluntary code of conduct if it is found necessary, appropriate and useful by them.
"There have never been, nor will there be any plans by the European Commission to have some sort of EU regulation, nor is there any legal basis for doing so."
However, the Telegraph's journalist David Rennie goes on to reproduce the unedited transcript of a tape recorded interview he had with Mr. Frattini, the relevant portions of which are quoted below.
"Also we are organizing a round table, that I have scheduled for May 2006 between myself and all the representatives of the European media, the EFJ, the European Newspaper Publishers' association, the European Publishers' Council.
"I expect to address exactly the issue of the possibilities of reconciling the principle of freedom of expression, that cannot be limited of courser, with the principle of responsibility of journalists, and press in general. We will talk also about the so-called code of conduct, which I mentioned in the communication on radicalisation, but of course the point will be, when I talk about a code of conduct, I don't talk about an instrument to limit the freedom of expression. But I will try to offer to the press, to journalists, an instrument to self-regulate.
"The first point is, any kind of unilateral imposition coming from institutions should be avoided, but if you agree, and I speak to a very key sector in touch with public opinion, if you agree to the need to reconcile these two key pillars for example, freedom of expression on one hand, and full respect of religions on the other hand, if you agree on the importance of preventing and eradicating the roots of violence, please, help me, that's my new approach, because of course it is not through laws and imposition that we can solve this very difficult problem.
"Now, we are in this very difficult situation, why? Because there was a violent reaction to an expression of the fundamental freedom of the press. The publication [of the cartoons], and particularly the republication was, in my view, imprudent. Because probably they didn't calculate, they didn't think exactly of the consequences, and the risks of inflaming the situation, immediately after the victory of Hamas, immediately after the very serious threat posed by the president of Iran.
"So what I believe is that even in this very difficult moment, our first statement should be, freedom of expression should be granted, to everyone. But, in candour, of course violent reactions should be condemned, but that said, if you want to reconcile those two principles, please help me to find the best way.
"That is my political approach, it is not a bureaucratic one. If I have to condemn violence, obviously I condemn violence, but that said, after having condemned violence, what should we do? We should do something more, and we should together, journalists and editors, and European institutions address this together, because it is a matter of fact that this publication inflamed a very difficult situation in the Middle East. ...
"One suggestion is that this very difficult challenge ahead of us is to get involved the Muslim world. I cannot give them a privileged role, of course, I am the first to stress that human lives, the refusal of violence, and human dignity will be at the heart of European policy, and cannot be forgotten. But at the same time, if I were a journalist, I probably would have thought about the real context that one particular religion, one of the three big monotheistic religions, bans the publication of images of God, it's an element you have to consider.
"That's why I would suggest this concept of prudence. Prudence involves of considering all the elements. It is a relative concept, prudence. I should be prudent given the very difficult situation in the Middle East, I can be less prudent in a different moment, where all these very sensitive issues are not on the same table. I cannot create a privileged [ranking] among religions. But how can we treat one sentiment of religiosity, or another, it could depend on the context.
Nineteen eighty four was a fictional year to conjure with. Another year but a real one was 1968 when Neil Young wrote a song which became an anthem for a generation of protesters. Those who sang it then can still sing it today; if they can still carry the tune, not in earnest but irony.
Though your brother's bound and gagged
And they've chained him to a chair
Won't you please come to Chicago
Just to sing
In a land that's known as freedom
How can such a thing be fair
Won't you please come to Chicago
For the help that we can bring.
Events are picking up pace and maybe 2006 will be another one of those years.
Updated comment: It is obvious from the tape recorded transcript of Rennie's interview with Frattini that the EU official was aware that he had no legal power to censor. Neverthless it is abundantly clear in the interview that Frattini was preparing to appeal to publishers to self-censor. In his delicate phrase, "that is my political approach, it is not a bureaucratic one". Now I've heard this kind of speech before in trips to small mountain towns where a government representative is at pains to say that while he cannot officially encourage the headmen to pay the "revolutionary tax" levied by the insurgents he 'understands' that the rules of natural hospitality do not preclude making gestures of good will to all comers. But the government message to the headmen was really we cannot protect you and you will have to look out for yourselves though we will never officially admit it. As I said, I've heard this speech before but never expected to hear it spoken in the heart of Europe.