The Blog

You Can't Say That

At the UN, the Obama administration backs limits on free speech.

12:00 AM, Oct 5, 2009 • By ANNE BAYEFSKY
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Even the normally feeble European Union tried to salvage the American capitulation by expressing the hope that the resolution might be read a different way. Speaking on behalf of the EU following the resolution's adoption, French Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattéi declared that "human rights law does not, and should not, protect religions or belief systems, hence the language on stereotyping only applies to stereotyping of individuals . . . and not of ideologies, religions or abstract values. The EU rejects the concept of defamation of religions." The EU also distanced itself from the American compromise on the media, declaring that "the notion of a moral and social responsibility of the media" goes "well beyond" existing international law and "the EU cannot subscribe to this concept in such general terms."

In 1992 when the United States ratified the main international law treaty which addresses freedom of expression, the government carefully attached reservations to ensure that the treaty could not "restrict the right of free speech and association protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States."

The Obama administration's debut at the Human Rights Council laid bare its very different priorities. Threatening freedom of expression is a price for engagement with the Islamic world that it is evidently prepared to pay.

Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a professor at Touro College, and the editor of EYEontheUN.org.