EU freedom of speech runs further down the drain

In another blow to freedom of speech and democracy in the European Union, France has made it a crime, punishable by a year in prison and a 45,000 Euro fine, for denying that the Armenians suffered genocide at the hands of the Turks in 1915 (see my previous post on Holocaust denial in Europe). While it is apparently an undeniable historical fact that this genocide occured, and Turkey's refusal to recognize this genocide is appalling, what drugs are people taking to make it a crime to question historical events, particularly those that happened as long ago as 1915 when only a handful of people alive today even existed? In my mind, the passing of ridiculous, totalitarian and politicized laws like this highlight the necessity of adopting an EU Bill of Rights.

5 thoughts on “EU freedom of speech runs further down the drain”

  1. Peter,

    Turkey has a moral obligation to compensate Armenia and Armenians for (quite appropriately termed) WAR CRIMES during the first world war; that should always be borne in mind. I personally think Oran Pamuk is a well-deserving candidate for this year’s prize; the problem however (as if it’s not already blatantly obvious to everyone!) is the French public’s innate anti-Islamic (read Antisemitic) point-of-view. The French however DO have a point: most social problems caused in France these days are by immigrant youths (mostly angry young North African (ie. Muslim) and Caribbean men: no jobs, rabid and persistent discrimination, no hope for a better future, etc.); but then, the problem will only remain if the people in France (and Europe as a whole) remain entrenched in old-world mentalities… This, unfortunately, will only lead to Europe’s slow and painful demise. Look to Malaysia – and it’s multi-ethnic and peaceful! society – THAT! is the way of the future.

    Jay

  2. Actually this is not a law yet–the Senate has to pass it and Chirac has to sign it before it becomes law, and that it is looking more and more unlikely.

  3. Actually, there are a lot of things which are generally excluded from free speech. In particular, this concerns so-called “hate speech” whose sole aim is to incite violence. Even though I’m a great proponent of free speech, I do agree with such measures as they are aimed at preserving free speech as such. It is an illusion to think that free speech is a given and will never go away as long as you introduce no “anti-free speech” laws. In fact, free speech along with all the other liberties we enjoy are a fragile construction. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m German, which makes me more sensitive to this issue, as our own history clearly shows how such liberties can go down the drain pretty quickly.

    With regard to this particular example: Whereas I do not consider it the role of a law book to define history (perhaps we should rather have some agreed histories, as usual, written by the winners/survivors), and therefore do not agree with the introduction of this particular law, it nevertheless seems odd that there should be a law about holocaust denial, but not about other forms of genocide.

    Furthermore, I think its funny that Malaysia is cited as a good example here. What exactly is so great about free speech in Malaysia? It is my understanding that the press there is rather well regulated by means of permits and I seem to recall even arrests due to too much “free speech” a few years back (see Pak Din etc in 2001). Apart from this, if I fly into KL it is greatly announced that my death by execution will follow if I bring prohibited substances into the country. Clearly, such a thought would never occur to me, but nevertheless, where exactly is the great example here? Death penalty? Surely you must be kidding. I think you shouldn’t forget that with all our little issues in Europe, we are still one of the most free places on earth.

    To conclude, what really threatens free speech in my opinion is not such laws. It is the eradication of privacy, which is a direct means to the eradication of free thought which is much worse.

  4. > it nevertheless seems odd that there should be a law about holocaust denial, but not about other forms of genocide
    I think this is precisely my biggest objection to this kind of law – it is used selectively as a political tool. What about the numerous other genocides that have occurred much more recently that 1915? Why isn’t it a crime to deny that the mass murder in Rwanda in the 90’s was genocide? It’s just because this is a political stunt, and it really doens’t have anything to do with preventing hate-crimes or racism etc., which are arguably legitimate.
    > Furthermore, I think its funny that Malaysia is cited as a good example here.
    I agree with that. I would never cite Malaysia as the best example of a nation that upholds human rights.
    > I think you shouldn’t forget that with all our little issues in Europe, we are still one of the most free places on earth.
    I agree completely Steph. I don’t want to give the wrong impression with my criticisms of Europe. I also regard Europe as one of the freest places on Earth. The reason I specifically target Europe and other western nations (namely the US and Australia) is that I see a trend in the west, where we have great personal freedoms, for these freedoms to be gradually eroded. If I sat here all day blogging about how China didn’t respect peoples’ rights, which incidentally I have done, then everybody would say “What’s new?” in unison. The problem in the west is that people take their freedoms for granted, are complacent when it comes to defending them, and often don’t even recognize when they are being attacked.

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