Free Speech Watch

FREE SPEECH WATCH….So how’s the world been doing on that free speech thing over the past few weeks? Let’s round up the action:

  • The French National Assembly passed a draft law that would make it illegal to deny the 1915 Armenian genocide in Turkey. Violation would be punishable by five years in jail and a 45,000-euro fine.

  • The Turks, of course, have their own law banning “public denigration of Turkishness.” In September, Elif Shafak was put on trial for violating that law, just as Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk was last year.

  • Tony Judt, a widely respected historian who is critical of Israeli policy, had a talk canceled after pressure from the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. The talk was sponsored by a group that rents space from the Polish consulate in New York, and the Polish Consul General reported that the ADL and AJC made their position clear: “The phone calls were very elegant but may be interpreted as exercising a delicate pressure. That’s obvious ? we are adults and our IQs are high enough to understand that.”

    Another Judt appearance was similarly canceled after Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale complained that Judt was an anti-Semite in all but name. “Being anti-Israel is essentially being anti-Jewish,” he explained.

  • In Germany, the Deutsche Oper in Berlin canceled a performance of Mozart’s Idomeneo after a call from an unidentified person who warned that the opera was “damaging to religious feelings.” This was due to an added scene that presented the severed heads of Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha as a way of making a statement critical of organized religion.

  • Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya, a frequent critic of Vladimir Putin, was gunned down in broad daylight in her apartment building. “According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Ms Politkovskaya is the twelfth journalist to die in a contract-style killing since Mr Putin came to power.”

  • Steven Howards of Beaver Creek, Colorado, sued a Secret Service agent after being arrested for assault for telling Dick Cheney that his policies in Iraq were “reprehensible.”

  • After Pope Benedict XVI delivered a speech critical of Islam, Christian churches were firebombed in the West Bank, a Pakistani terrorist group called for the pope’s murder, a Baghdad terrorist group threatened to kill all Christians in Iraq, and a nun was murdered in Somalia.

  • At Columbia University, protesters stormed the stage and shut down a planned speech from Jim Gilchrist, head of the anti-illegal immigrant Minutemen group.

I could go on, but I’ll stop. I just wanted to provide a flavor of what’s happening these days. Keeping people from speaking their minds is as popular as ever and needs to be fought as much as ever. From all sides.

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