Friday, February 26, 2016

European countries crack down on free speech, an irony given the cartoon controversy


Raphael Minder writes in the New York Times (front page) Thursday, February 25, 2016, “Crackdowns on free speech rise in a Euorpe wary of terror”.

Minder starts the discussion with the depiction of an arrest of puppeteers in Madrid, Spain, for putting on a show that used a play on words that combine Al Qaeda and Basque separatism.  They are charged with “glorifying terrorism and promoting hatred”.

I visited Bilbao and San Sebastian myself in the spring of 2001, staying in a hotel near the ETA headquarters in Bailbao, but all was quiet.  There was a jogging race that Sunday.  I also visited the Guggenheim.

There are prosecutions of a rap musician and poet in Spain.  The puppet show was simply a work of fiction.  But fiction, as I’ve written before, can get people in trouble, as it did in my case when working as a substitute teacher in 2005.

All of this is ironic.  After all, the Charlie Hebdo attacks and probably Paris attacks were motivated by western speech seen as insulting to Islam.  So European lawmakers seem to be replicating the same style of thinking.  What happened to “Je suis Charlie?”  (Movies, Jan. 31, 2016). The article points out that the laws are vague and hard to predict in where the interpretation lies.

The article points out that other speech offenses, like denying the Holocaust, are already illegal in some countries.

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