Left-wing politics from the US to Nepal, via Zimbabwe, South America and Palestine.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Free Speech and Censorship in Iran and the US

During the insane row over the anti-Muslim Danish cartoons, an Iranian newspaper held a competition to find the best anti-Semitic cartoon and an Israeli group responsed with holding their own anti-Semitic cartoon contest. At the time Iran claimed, just like the right-wing Danish paper that published the original cartoons, that it was 'testing the limits of freedom of speech'. All fine and good, no problems so far (apart from a few embassies burned and people killed...actually, most of the protests were peaceful, but no one really reported on those).

So imagine my surprise when I saw yesterday that Iran was shutting down a newspaper for printing anti-Azeri cartoons. The cartoons seem to have provoked riots in Azeri areas (Azeris make up about 25% of the Iranian population). What happened to that good old freedom of speech?

Having said all that, a comparison is necessary. Anyone remember the Bush administration censoring photographs of dead soldiers and of coffins from the Iraq war? Here's something to jog your memory. Free speech seems fine only when its consequences aren't damaging to whatever government or ruling body...

On yet another front, the American Civil Liberties Union is considering a proposal that will limit criticism of its policies by board members. The biggest organization committed to defending free speech in the the US is self-censoring.

Forgive me while I go bash my head against a brick wall.


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