Should the UN play a leading role in regulating Freedom of expression in the media? (Aawsat). By AmirTaheri
Geneva – “Should the United Nations play a leading role in countering hate speech and expressions of “violent extremism” in the media?”
This was the question debated by a special panel at the Palace of the Nations, the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva on Monday under the auspices of UNESCO’s liaison office.
Some fireworks were introduced into the debate by the panelist Amir Taheri who was the last to speak.
Recalling the 1970s and 1980s when “some powers” tried to use UNESCO as a vehicle for imposing control on the media across the globe, Taheri said he was “always deeply suspicious” of international organizations trying to legislate a one-size-fits-all scheme to regulate freedom of expression.
“In the bad old days, the move in that direction was called The New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO), a brainchild of the Soviet bloc in the context of the Cold War,” Taheri said.
“The architects of that scheme proposed to issue UNESCO media permits for journalists across the globe and impose rules binding on all member states. In other words they wanted to fence us in by pretending they were protecting us."“Today, anyone trying to revive that monster would be laughed out of the room,” Taheri said. “Nevertheless, we have to remain vigilant against any attempt at media control via the UN or UNESCO.
A majority of the members of the UN are states that cannot be regarded as lobbyists of press freedom, to say the least. To ask them to regulate the media with the pretext of controlling hate speech is to give them a license to intensify their system of censorship.”
Taheri claimed that the UN has not succeeded to define “peace” or “terrorism” after decades of debate and would not be able to define the word “hate” either and thus cannot pretend to regulate the media in the name of “combating hate speech.”
“Any talk of regulating freedom of speech puts us on a slippery slope that could lead to censorship curtailing freedom of expression which is a basic human right,” Taheri said. “My message to you on behalf of journalists everywhere is simple: don’t fence us in!” Read the full story here.