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.
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.
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.