EU States Curb Freedom of Speech?
The International Free Press Society sponsored a freedom of speech conference November 27, 2010 in Copenhagen.
Below is the opening part of an address by Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff. In it she raises serious concerns about the impacts on freedom of speech of EU legislation which comes into effect November 28, 2010. The relevant directive is the “Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.”
If you believe freedom of speech in Western society is worth defending, and we do, you might wish to become better acquainted with the apparently excessive degree of intrusion on your freedoms the legislation EU member states are now bound to implement will bring.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,
I stand here before you in the city of Copenhagen in the year 2010. This is widely considered to be an enlightened country in the heart of an enlightened continent.
Our basic freedoms have long been guaranteed — first by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as passed by the United Nations in 1948, and then buttressed by the Council of Europe in 1950 through the European Convention of Human Rights, which was later affirmed by the European Union. Our individual countries have additionally codified the same basic rights in their own constitutions.
These rights include the freedom of individual conscience, the right to assemble peaceably, and the right to practice our religion freely, or to have no religion at all. And, perhaps most importantly of all, they include the right to voice our opinions freely and to publish them without hindrance.
Yet freedom of speech is under attack today here in Denmark, as it is in my own country Austria, and indeed all across Europe. Today, in 21st century Western Europe, our right to free speech is being shut down quietly and systematically with an effectiveness that the commissars in the old Soviet Union could only dream of.
A milestone in this ominous totalitarian trend will be reached tomorrow, 28 November 2010, when the member states of the European Union are required to implement an innocuous-sounding legal provision known as the “Framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia”, or, more fully, the “Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.” According to the final article of the Framework Decision, “Member States shall take the necessary measures to comply with the provisions of this Framework Decision by 28 November 2010.”
Why does this matter to the cause of free speech in Europe?
If you read the full text of the Framework Decision (which may be found in the legislative section of the EU’s website), you will learn that “Each Member State shall take the measures necessary… to ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable.” Such “intentional conduct” includes “conduct which is a pretext for directing acts against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.”
This policy statement sets out the aims and objectives of IFPS- International Free Press Society
Other implications of the framework law are set out here
UPDATE: As EU member states make their contentious move others fight even harder:
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