Tuesday, October 30, 2012
German confusion over free speech
Unlike the United States, free speech is limited in Europe with numerous statutes that ban hate speech, blasphemy, Holocaust denial and even phrases deemed insults to bureaucrats and police officers.
When Germany's far right political party, Pro Deutschland, announced it planned to screen the video The Innocence of Muslims politicians responded by trying to tighten 140-year-old blasphemy laws. After all, Germany has an estimated 4 million Muslims and its embassy in Sudan was set on fire last month by men egged on by Islamist leaders.
But German Interior Minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich opposed the measures, saying that German law also protects "freedom of expression and artistic freedom."
German courts recently upheld free speech rights when politicians have tried to stop the airing of provocative material. In May, a small right wing party, Pro-NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia), held up anti-Islamic caricatures in front of mosques – some depicting Muslims as terrorists. Some Muslims in Bonn responded with violent protests.
Ralf Jaeger, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, banned the cartoons. But the Federal Constitutional Court overruled him, saying the caricatures alone did not represent a grave enough threat to public order and security to limit free speech. Still, the court could have ruled otherwise.