I had the pleasure this month of writing a piece on free speech in the leading policy magazine in Switzerland, “Schweizer Monat.” The piece is published in German (Charlies falsche Freunde or Charlie’s False Friends), which is particularly cool for my son Benjamin who is taking German at McLean High School in Virginia. The German version can be found here. Germany is currently our fifth highest supplier of readers with Switzerland close behind. Ironically, Harvard Professor Cass Sunstein also wrote a piece in the same issue this month. The translated column is below:
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Under the pre-text of combatting terrorism, the European Commission is mulling a proposed regulation that would require telecommunications companies and internet service providers to retain records of European Citizens’ communications. Courts struck down on constitutional privacy grounds a previous law.
The measure comes just after the deadly terrorist attacks stemming from the Charlie Hebdo rampage in Paris in early January. The situation does appear to a lesser degree reminiscent of the changes in government approaches to privacy in the wake of terrorist outrages in other nations such as those in the United States in 2001 and the railway attacks in Spain and the United Kingdom.
As many on this blog know, I am a great fan of Pope Francis who has brought an inspiring leadership to the Church that has drawn millions back to the faith. Given that admiration, I was disheartened to read the Pope’s comment on free speech today. I ran a column last weekend on how world leaders are failing over themselves to “Stand With Charlie” after the massacre of editors and staff at Charlie Hebdo magazine. However, the West has been rolling back on free speech rights, including some of these very leaders. Pope Francis added his view this week to those insisting that free speech must have limits when it comes to insulting people about their religion. It is a disappointing observation, particularly when coupled with a rather poor analogy.
This weekend I wrote a column for the Washington Post on the crackdown of free speech in France. The column suggested that, if the French really wanted to honor the dead at Charlie Hebdo, they would rescind the laws used to hound them and threaten them with criminal prosecution for years. (Indeed, at least one surviving journalist expressed contempt for those who now support free speech but remained silent in the face of past efforts to shut down the magazine). Now, however, news reports indicate that the French government is doubling down on criminalizing speech in the name of free speech after the massacre. France has reportedly made dozens of arrests of people who glorify terrorism and engage in hateful or antiSemitic speech.