Tag Archives: free speech

Military Court Upholds Right To Be Racist

An Army soldier who espoused racist views in an Internet profile was exercising his right to free speech according to the U.??S. Court of Appeals. Prc. Jeremy T. Wilcox was accused of making statements that discredited the armed forces and were detrimental to good order and discipline. He was also charged with violating military rules by attending a Ku Klux Klan rally and encouraging others to participate in extremist groups. His profile was spotted by civilian police who informed the armed forces of the material. Wilcox was tried before a court martial and sentenced to imprisonment and discharged.

The U.S. Court of Appeals noted that while Wllcox held views that were disturbing and inconsistent with Army policies, evidence was also presented he had excellent working relations with nonwhites and his fellow soldiers.

The Court decision is consistent with those who believe in the right of free speech to those with whom one disagrees. No evidence was offered which indicated Mr. Wilxcox failed to work cooperatively with other members of his unit. An individual is entitled to his private views regardless of how society disagrees with those ideas. That is the essence of democracy.

Turkish Courts Move Against Freedom Of Press

The ongoing conflict between Turkey’s secular minded judiciary and those supporting the rights of Muslim women took an ominous turn when a public prosecutor filed a lawsuit against a Turkish journalist for the Star on grounds he was inciting “people to hatred an enmity” because of his columns which argue Muslim females have the right to wear a headscarf while attending the university. The Constitutional Court is currently hearing a case raised against the ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) on grounds it is fostering the Muslim religion by acts such as allowing women to wear the headscarf.

On June 5, 2008, nine of the 11 members of the Constitutional Court declared illegal Parliament’s decision to end the ban on wearing the headscarf. Mustafa Karaaliogu wrote a column denouncing the decision and arguing in favor of the headscarf. He now stands charged with crimes of “provoking people to commit a crime.”

Karaaliglu wrote the following on June 6: “By canceling legislation that is designed to remove a certain violation of rights and shame and ensure that young women can attend university, the Constitutional Court exceeded its jurisdiction and violated the very law that is its raison d’etre. It trampled not only on the law, but also on the headscarf, which is the heritage of a centuries-old faith.”

It does not matter if one agrees or disagrees with the journalist, his comments were valid expression of a viewpoint and in no way incited violence or fostered hate.

Russian Threat To Media Freedom On Hold

The Russian parliament, for the moment, has placed a hold on proposed legislation which would have threatened members of the media with libel suits if they dared criticizing government officials. Duma Speaker, Boris Gryzlov, who heads United Russia and controls the parliamentary majority, said his party has changed its positon on the bill which would have allowed courts to close media outlets for publishing libelous statements. The bill passed in its first reading by a vote of 339 to 1. It was authored by United Russia deputy, Robert Shiegel, the Duma’s youngest member and a former spokesperson for the pro-Putin youth group, Nashi.

The most incredible aspect of this story is that only one member of a legislature stood up to vote against a blatant attempt to halt criticism of the government. The lack of enthusiasm for freedm of speech in a legislature does not hold out much hope for freedom of speech and the press.

Olympic Committee Grants Free Speech To Athletes

The Autstralian Olympic Committee has backed down from its previous decision that would prevent its athletes from freely expressing their views at the Olympic Games. The new agreement with athletes states: “Accredited persons at the Games may of course express their opinions on human rights and other such issues…Such expression of opinions and the conduct of participants should be inspired by full compliance with the Olympic Charter.” In a second change, the AOC executve board agreed to drop its clause banning athletes from talking about anything other than their performance.

The International Olympic Committee granted the 2008 games to China under the impression the Chinese government would respect the rights of its own people as well as those attending the games. There was hope China would relax restrictions on speech and cease harrassing dissidents. Those hopes have never been translated into action.

China could still make its mark as a nation concerned about human rights if it took a proactive stance against Myanmar over the issue of cyclone relief.

Free Speech Issue In Turkey

The ongoing debate within Turkey regarding rights of free speech continued with the conviction in a Turkish court of a politician who was accused of inciting hatred and violence. Hilmi Aydogdu as found guilty of threatening public safety after hewarned Turkey against taking any action in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in Iraq. Aydogu, leader of the local branch of the pro-Kurdian Democratic Society Party(DTP) said if Turkey invaded Iraq and attempted to seize Kirkuk, which is heavily Kurdish, then action should be taken against such an assault. The court barred him from further service in political office. He was sentenced to jail for 15 months.

The issue of free speech invariably encounters the classic case of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. A threat to take action against a government “in case” it invaded a neutral nation is hardly in line with threatening public safety. Turkey has denied ever having such intention so the entire issue of posing a threat to public safety is a moot point.

Muslim Activist Jailed In Great Britain

A Muslim activist who is known for his radical views regarding the war in Iraq was jailed and sentenced for four and a half years for his inflammatory speeches in a London mosque. Judge Nicholas Price said that Abu Izzadeen, was among the leaders of a group of men who gathered in the Regent’s Park mosque in November, 2004, to call for volunteers to fight British troops in Iraq and to make an appeal for funds to finance insurgency abroad. He was also accused of heckling then Home Secretary John Reid who was giving a spech in 2006. The judge said Izzadeen and his associates had abused the right to free speech. Izzadeen was told by the British judge: “I am left in no doubt that your speeches were used by you as self-aggrandisement and not as an expression of sincerely held religious views. I find that you are arrogant, contemptuous and utterly devoid of any sign of remorse.”

After the sentencing, Bethan David, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The challenge in this case was to demonstrate to the jury that sometimes statements overstep not just the boundaries of taste and decency, but also the boundaries of the law.”

The bottom line is apparently no evidence was found that Izzadeen committed any action of terrorism. Heckling a government official is certainly within the boundaries of law and urging people to fight is just that — urging. The case against Izzadeen would have been strengthened if there was evidence he had in some manner directly aided the killing of anyone.

Guilty -Oops Not Guilty, Who Knows, Say Turkish Courts

A Turkish lawyer and human rights campaigner who was charged with insulting the military under the notorious Article 301 which makes it a crime to insult “Turkishnes” was found guilty and not guilty by two separate courts that heard the same case by mistake. Eren Keskin, a Human Rights Association branch chairwoman made a speech in Germany in 2002 that asserted “the military in Turkey is now involved in trade. It buys banks. For as long as the country is not governed by civilian forces, women’s problems will never be solved. The miltiary commits sexual harassment, requiring virginity checks even from married women just to torment them.”

Ms. Keskin was charged by a member of the Turkish parliament, Profssor Necla Arat with violating Article 301. A prosecutor’s office filed a similar complaint which resulted in two separate courts hearing the same case. Legally, the two cases should have been combined but a mistake was made. In one case, the court agreed her comments were protected undr freedom of speech provisions of the constitution, in the other she was convicted but won an appeal. The retrial was halted by the judge who wanted to see if Article 301 would be changed.

Kurdish Politician In Turkey Jailed In Free Speech Case

A court in the city of Diyarbakir sentenced Kurdish poltician Leyla Zana to two years in jail for praising Abduallah Ocalan, jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party(PKK). She was sentecned under a law that penalizes “propaganda of a terrorist organization.” Zana has already spent nearly a generation for working with the PKK. The court decision was made due to a speech she made in March, 2007, at the Nevruz(coming of Spring) festival in Diyarbakr where she was with Iraq President Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan administration in northern Iraq. She mentioned their names along with that of Ocalan in saying, “I am grateful to those three leaders.. They all have a place in the hearts and minds of the Kurds.”

The action of putting in prison a person for speaking at a festival will not be well received by the European Union which expects its members to respect the right of free speech. Ms. Zana has already been recognized by the European Parliament in presenting her its Sakharov human rights award.

Turkey’s Article 301 Fails Test Of Free Speech

Turkey has been attempting to meet demands from the European Union that its constitution respects the right of free speech. A particular source of friction between the EU and the Turish government revolves around the infamous Aricle 301 of the Turkish constitution which makes it a crime to insult “Turkishness.” The government is proposing to change the word from “Turkishness” to the “Turkish nation” as though that change would satisfy the European Union. Under the proposed change the maximum punishment would be two years and prosecution for violation would rest solely in the hands of the President of Turkey. Critics point out saying the “Turkish nation” only adds to confusion unless it is specified as to exactly what is meant by the “Turkish nation.” Erdal Dogan, lawyer for the Turkish-Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, who was prosecuted for violating Aritcle 301, said the proposed change was cosmetic and meaningless.

Turkey is a mature democratic nation which is governed by intelligent people. They do not need to be protected against free speech, they are quite capable of handling such situations in the court of public opinion. The only solution is getting rid of this Article and not replacing it with anything.

Report Freely At Peril Of Dying Freely Say Afghans

The Islamic religious court which condemned Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, to death because he downloaded from the Internet a story that ofended clerics has now made clear that reporters who pursue the case run the risk of also suffering severe penalties. Balkh province deputy attorney general Hafizullah Khaliqyar said, “based on the crimes Perwiz Kambakhsh committed the primary court yeserday sentenced him to the most serious punishment which is the death penalty.” Khaliqyar threatend to arrest journalists who “support” the condemned man. “I will arrest any journalist trying to support him after this.” The “crime” consists of downloading a story which raised a question about the Muslim religion by suggesting that if males could have multiple wives, then why couldn’t females have multiple husbands?

Reporters Without Borders exressed being “deeply shocked by this trial, carried out in haste and without any concern for the law or for free expression, which is protected by the constitution.” During the American led invasion of Afghanistan President Bush sharply attcked the fanatic rule of Taliban clerics who throttled free speech. Six years later the same clerical attitudes are present in the supposedly “free Afghanistan.”