Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mum's the word in much of the world

We read:

"A report by the World Press Freedom Committee indicates that in spite of strides toward democracy and freedom worldwide, "insult laws" are still widespread. These laws make it a crime to insult public officials, or in some cases, to insult any individual, group or religion -- a chilling influence on discourse worldwide, says USA Today.

In Egypt, blogger Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman is serving a four-year jail term for insulting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and for "contempt of religion."

The Philippines' Jose Miguel Arroyo, husband of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has sued more than 40 Philippine journalists under insult laws; he even sued one columnist for describing him as "the fat spouse," which Arroyo said was "obviously meant to denigrate me for my rotundity."

In Russia, when Kursiv, an Internet publication, joked that President Vladimir Putin was "Russia's phallic symbol" because of his campaign to boost the birth rate, investigators raided its offices and shut it down, fining the editor under Russia's insult law.

French media critic Philippe Karsenty was fined last year for defaming the honor of a state-owned TV station.

Journalist Hrant Dink was murdered in Istanbul in January after being prosecuted repeatedly under a Turkish law that makes it a crime to insult "Turkishness."