Since February 2009 , this blog and Huib's 3 other Euroblogs are together at:

- In Europa Zu Hause [DE]
- L'Europe Chez Soi [FR]
- At Home in Europe [EN]
- In Europa Thuis [NL]

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Will Ulfkotte succeed in strangling freedom of expression on the Web?

I read a nearly desperate call of one of the bloggers who are persecuted in Germany by Udo Ulfkotte.

The self-appointed Saviour of Europe (from Islam) wastes his time and money on legal quibbling against at least three German bloggers we know of, demanding huge amounts of money as compensation for alleged calumny.

As always, he uses "Pax Europa" as his vehicle to bear the brunt of his expenditure on legal fees and lawyers, as well as the risk of his finally going out empty-handed. (Like in his legal actions against Belgian authorities who forbade the Brussels 9/11 demonstration).

Ulfkotte's legal tactics have for consequence that individual antiracist bloggers are now in danger of being blooded to a financial death by legal invoices (from lawyers as well as from Ulfkotte and his Pax Europa Organization).

It is a cause of principle: Freedom of opinion, freedom of linking to other people's opinions. The Internet is something different from traditional media. It is interactive. People who feel the need to contradict something, can react, either on the site of their "detractor", or on their own site, and link it to the original post.

On the Net, it is no more like in the traditional printed-paper world. Legal provisions to protect individuals and institutions from slandering in the press, have historically been instituted to limit the abuse by mass media of their near-monopoly of the public sphere. This was done to correct a situation of unequal power, unequal access to the public tribune.

The Net, however, is much more democratic: Anybody can publish, react, link, with about equal opportunity to reach the public and the public opinion. Therefore, everybody can, within the limits of the law, more freely vent his or her opinions and participate in the many dialogues that ensue. This is a fundamentally different situation from the one, the old press laws have been made in.

Does this open the way to a so-called "liberty to offend", as claimed by many ideological allies of Dr. Ulfkotte? (Viz. the danish Cartoons debate!). We do not think so. Bloggers should take up their responsibility for consequences that their words and drawings may provoke.

But nobody can upheld, that opening a discussion about racism, or hidden racism, in Dr. Ulfkotte's recent statements and actions, is irresponsible or provocative in the way, the Danish cartoons and similar systematic slandering of other people's deepest convictions are.

But Ulfkotte, undermining the opinions of his allies, also in this matter, goes for exactly the contrary of "freedom to offend". He goes for Internet Censure by the Courts.

The German Courts work with existing laws. Laws that date essentially from the printed-paper area. Laws that in the matter of press rules, have been sharpened after 1945, in order to avoid the kind of abuse, the Nazis made of the media. These laws need urgently an update for the 21st century. The actual legal situation allows anybody who has the financial means for it, to legally strangle other, less wealthy, bloggers, and to bleed them financially white with court fees and amends.

Ulfkotte has started to exploit this loophole in German jurisdiction. He sues other bloggers for "Verleumdung" (defamation), when they call him a "racist". Even if they only link to an article where such things are written!

Even if Udo Ulfkotte does not agree, and invokes "demographic" reasons for his islam-bashing, the opinion, that Ulfkotte's ramblings are of a racist nature, can be perfectly sustained:

In other countries, where legislation is not narrowed by post-1945 fears of nazist revival, an authority on Islam-Western relations like Olivier Roy, has been able to freely characterise as "racist" a maverick French philosopher (Robert Redeker), who wrote a perfectly "ulfkottean" article in the Paris daily 'Le Figaro'. (Olivier Roy in 'Esprit', November 2006 [FR]). That is why Germany urgently should modernize its legislation on the protection of personal integrity in the media, especially ont the internet. And that is why, if the German Courts would follow Ulfkotte's injunctions, an appeal to the European Court of Justice could well turn into a final victory for the attacked bloggers.

That Ulfkotte abuses of these provisions that were originally intended to guard against new Nazism, in order to silence his critics from the antiracist left, is is proven by the fact, that he doesn't undertake anything against those who defame him from the right. (Examples in At Home in Europe, october 3, 2007). Such a behaviour has never been the intention of the legislators! German parliament and Courts should urgently undertake steps to correct the old provisions in order to make them applicable to the internet-epoch.

Those, who stand up so vehemently for "the freedom to offend" (vide Danish Mohammed Cartoons debate, as well as Ajaan Hirsi Ali's statements to that effect), should also take action here against Ulfkotte and his organization. Freedom is indivisible. If Ulfkotte's anti-Islamist allies let him have his way against anti-racist bloggers, their turn will come next.
Ulfkotte's former "SIOE"-allies from Denmark and Britain are already aware of the possibility that Ulfkotte may do his disorganizing and destabilizing work at the service of unknown secret services! (At Home in Europe, September 13)

So, the only thing that is left to do next, is to organise a public action of bloggers (from left and right) to make Ulfkotte and Pax Europa stop their legal advocacy against freedom of expression on the Net. On the 15th of November, in Frankfurt, a provisional hearing by the Court will decide about the procedure to follow.

Time is short. An appeal to the European Court should be envisaged, if German judges choose to follow Dr. Ulfkotte and his Pax Europa Verein.

It is important, that German judges and legislators be aware of what is at stake, before the Frankfurt Court holds its preliminary hearings on November 15 in the first two cases of Ulfkotte advocacy against freedom of expression on the Web!

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