Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Obama Administration Backs Limits on Free Speech at The UN

The Obama administration has joined a United Nations group pushing for international limits on free speech rights. I am not sure what to make of this just yet. A number of western powers around the world have certain laws that curtail free speech. The United States has some restrictions/penalties on free speech as well. As a general policy, I believe the more free speech the better. I also have concerns regarding who exactly would be making the decision on what was 'appropriate' speech. It is unclear exactly where all this is going, but it certainly merits keeping an eye on.


"The Obama administration has marked its first foray into the UN human rights establishment by backing calls for limits on freedom of expression. The newly-minted American policy was rolled out at the latest session of the UN Human Rights Council, which ended in Geneva on Friday. American diplomats were there for the first time as full Council members and intent on making friends.

President Obama chose to join the Council despite the fact that the Organization of the Islamic Conference holds the balance of power and human rights abusers are among its lead actors, including China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. Islamic states quickly interpreted the president's penchant for "engagement" as meaning fundamental rights were now up for grabs. Few would have predicted, however, that the shift would begin with America's most treasured freedom.
The new resolution, championed by the Obama administration, has a number of disturbing elements. It emphasizes that "the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities . . ." which include taking action against anything meeting the description of "negative racial and religious stereotyping." It also purports to "recognize . . . the moral and social responsibilities of the media" and supports "the media's elaboration of voluntary codes of professional ethical conduct" in relation to "combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."

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