Thursday, February 09, 2006

European Community: Press Code on Religion Urged

From the Daily Telegraph:
Plans for a European press charter committing the media to “prudence” when reporting on Islam and other religions, were unveiled yesterday.

Franco Frattini, the European Union commissioner for justice, freedom and security, revealed the idea for a code of conduct in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. Mr Frattini, a former Italian foreign minister, said the EU faced the “very real problem” of trying to reconcile “two fundamental freedoms, the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion.”

Millions of European Muslims felt “humiliated” by the publication of cartoons of Mohammed, he added, calling on journalists and media chiefs to accept that “the exercising of a right is always the assumption of a responsibility.” He appealed to European media to agree to “self-regulate.”

Accepting such self-regulation would send an important political message to the Muslim world, Mr Frattini said.

By agreeing to a charter “the press will give the Muslim world the message: we are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression, we can and we are ready to self-regulate that right,” he said.

The code of conduct, as envisaged by Mr Frattini, would acknowledge the importance of respecting religious sensibilities but would not offer a “privileged” status to any one faith.

The European Commission has long had ambitions to introduce EU-wide legislation on fighting racism and xenophobia but has seen them founder amid resistance from national governments.

Mr Frattini said he was keen to move ahead with a voluntary code of conduct, to be drawn up by European media outlets with the assistance of the commission. The code would not have the status of an EU legal instrument and would not be enforceable by Union institutions.
It’s nice that it would not be “enforceable.” But how long before the authoritarians in Brussels decide to make it “enforceable?”

If it’s really voluntary restraint that’s wanted, why involve the EU at all?

We don’t particularly mind self-censorship of it’s really self-censorship. But government censorship, or even the “chilling effect” of threatened government censorship is fundamentally at odds with a free society. So is violence or threats of violence from those affronted.

Given Europe’s lack of tolerance for whatever kinds of expression are deemed politically-incorrect, the media there has every right to see itself as under siege.

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