23/2/09: Int’l 1st Amendment
The International Free Press Society
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
International Free Press Society and Geert Wilders Call for An International First Amendment And Ban On All Hate Speech Laws
Washington DC – On Friday, February 27, 2009, Dutch Member of Parliament Geert Wilders, founder and floor leader of the Freedom Party (PVV), and the International Free Press Society (IFPS), in conjunction with the Center for Security Policy, will discuss recent attacks on free speech worldwide, especially the recent legal actions against Wilders and other political leaders and journalists.
The International Free Press Society will announce a global initiative to protect free speech from laws that criminalize any criticisms of Islam or the doctrines of Shariah.
The event will include a screening of Fitna, the controversial film which includes quotations from the Koran, documentary footage of Islamic leaders inciting violence (jihad) based on those quotations, and documentary footage of jihadist violence. The film can be viewed on the Internet here.
Mr. Wilders will discuss his efforts to show Fitna and to rally support for free speech and the right to criticize Islam.
Frank Gaffney, President of the Center for Security Policy, will discuss the dangers to America’s national security and civil liberties imposed by global oppression of free speech. CSP recently hosted a conference in London entitled “Free Speech, Jihad and the Future of Western Civilization.” Selected speeches from that conference can be found here.
Concerning recent attacks on free speech, Gaffney said: “The insinuation of Shariah legal codes and practices into Free World societies includes the effort to impose Shariah blasphemy, slander and libel laws in the West. According to Shariah, it is impermissible to engage in speech or writings that ‘defame’ Islam or otherwise offend its followers. We must oppose all these efforts.”
Lars Hedegaard, President of the International Free Press Society, will introduce Mr. Wilders and outline the IFPS 2009 campaign to ban hate speech laws and to work for an “International First Amendment.” Hedegaard said:
The hate speech and blasphemy laws that are now common in many European countries lack clarity as to precisely what they aim to criminalize. Recent experience with their implementation further shows that they are unequally applied. This state of affairs is intolerable and the IFPS must therefore demand that all such laws be repealed. The way to deal with controversial, offensive or even hateful statements – unless they are directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action – is to expose them to public debate and criticism.
M.P. Geert Wilders lives under 24 hour police protection. Following Fitna’s release online in March 2008, al-Qaeda issued a fatwa calling for Wilders’ murder. Wilders also currently faces prosecution in Holland for alleged “incitement to hatred and discrimination.” Wilders called the Dutch Court of Appeals’ decision to prosecute him an attack on freedom of expression. “Participation in the public debate has become a dangerous activity. If you give your opinion, you risk being prosecuted,” he said.
Mr. Wilders was recently arrested and deported from England, where he had traveled on the invitation of members of the House of Lords to speak and show the film. He is visiting New York, Boston and Washington DC this week, meeting with private organizations, political leaders and journalists to encourage their support for the campaign to protect free speech worldwide.
An extended question and answer session with all three speakers will follow their presentations.
Press Conference Logistics
- Date: Friday, February 27, 2009
- Security Check-in Time: 8:30 a.m.
- Press Conference: 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
- Location: Lisagor Room, The National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW Washington, DC 20045
- Pre-registration required: Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Christine Brim at 202-835-9077 (office) or 202-379-6776 (cell) to pre-register. Space is limited and advance pre-registration is required. Anyone who is not pre-registered will not be permitted entry to the press conference.
- Security Check-in: Please allow ample time for security check-in. Personal identification and press credentials will be required. All bags, equipment and persons will be subject to inspection.
The following statements were delivered by IFPS directors at the February 27, 2009 National Press Club Event:
Statement by Lars Hedegaard, President of the International Free Press Society:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We live at a time when free speech is under the heaviest attack we have experienced since the Nazis tried to impose their absolutist rule two generations ago.
At a time when we should be exchanging views and information about the real threats to our civilization and whole way of life, Western countries and international organizations are busy trying to shut down free discourse. Hate speech and blasphemy laws are being brushed off or reintroduced as a means to regulate and discipline what may be said.
It seems to me that what is politically correct ought be determined by the the electorate when it has had the opportunity to listen to all arguments and every relevant piece of information.
But we are going about it the other way around. First our governments tell us what is politically correct and then they decide what may be said without fear of ostracism or criminal prosecution.
There is no better proof of that than the case of Geert Wilders.
It is about time that we return to the roots of our Judeo-Christian civilization and to the founding fathers of free speech.
Let me quote from a pamphlet published by John Milton in 1644. The language may be a bit dated, but the ideas are as fresh and relevant as when they were first penned:
“Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.”
“Let Truth and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”
“[Truth] needs no policies, nor stratagems, nor licensings to make her victorious.”
Milton goes on: “If we think to regulate printing, thereby to rectify manners, we must regulate all recreations and pastimes, all that is delightful to man. No music must be heard, no song be set or sung, but what is grave and Doric. There must be licensing of dancers, that no gesture, motion, or deportment be taught our youth, but what by their allowance shall be thought honest.”
That was John Milton in 1644 at the time of the English Revolution.
How ironic, how sad, how despicable that 365 years later, we should again be discussing the need to license opinions, to regulate and rectify manners and indeed to place upon ourselves “this iron yoke of outward conformity” – to quote John Milton once again.
For that is precisely what we do when we introduce laws on hate speech and blasphemy, when the state outlaws certain opinions and put people in jail for voicing them.
Where does all this end? As Milton pointed out, there is no end to it.
Next they’ll be regulating the internet, they will be scouring emails for wrong opinions.
They’ll invade the private sphere and listen in to what people say in their homes or places of work.
For make no mistake. If you regulate what may be said in public, you’ll simply drive the frank exchange of opinions underground. So the logical outcome will be a police state with millions of snooping stasi informers.
We have already seen such cases in Europe.
It is high time that we the people put a stop to this. A society that regulates speech is a society that is unable to solve its problems – let alone to identify them.
And such a society is doomed.
This is not the kind of world we want to leave to our children and grandchildren.
It is high time that we put a stop to speech rules and political correctness.
We need to repeal all hate speech and blasphemy laws that are now being adduced to take away our liberty.
We in the International Free Press Society will commit all our efforts and resources to achieving this objective.
Statement by Diana West, Vice President of the International Free Press Society:
Good morning to everyone, and I welcome you on behalf on the IFPS.
You will be hearing very shortly from Geert Wilders-who besides being a member of parliament and leader of the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, is a filmmaker and member of this press society’s board of advisors-as well as from my press society colleague Lars Hedegaard, a journalist from Denmark.
They will both be addressing the impact of ” hate speech” laws in Europe: in Mr. Wilders’ case, the direct consequences, which include his upcoming criminal prosecution by the Dutch government, the British government’s decision to bar him from the UK, even a Jordanian call for his extradition to Jordan to stand trial on “blasphemy” charges, all for what he has said. Then there are the more indirect consequences of “hate speech” laws on what is discussed and debated in the European public square, which Mr. Hedegaard will briefly address.
The ideal speech protections, we have come to realize, lie in the spirit of the American First Amendment, which we believe, may serve as a kind of lodestar for efforts to repeal hate speech and blasphemy laws in Europe. While Mr. Wilders would clearly live and breathe more easily with such speech protections, it is important for all of us who are here today to witness him speak to note, that even under existing legal constraints, governmental efforts to further constrain his speech and movement, and, of course, something I have not mentioned, the continual Islamic deaths threats that have robbed him of his personal freedom, he continues to believe in, claim, and exercise freedom of speech as an Unalienable right that neither laws, governments nor death threats can take away from him.
Americans have been blessed and enriched by unprecedented speech protections; but I would suggest that we Americans don’t always trust in these protections. Even without the repressing force of the “hate speech” laws we see in Europe, Americans have increasingly submitted to personal and institutional codes of self-censorship, partly under the influence of what we know as “political correctness”; more recently, under the influence of specifically Islamic speech codes. We obviously don’t need a campaign to install a First Amendment here; but there is a crucial need in this country to reestablish, or, perhaps better-reassert-the full range of political expression and debate that it guarantees.
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