Wednesday, October 29, 2008

International Symposium on Freedom of Expression

Mr Frank William La Rue Lewy
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection
of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Special Procedures Division,
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
UNOG-OHCHR, CH-1211 Geneva 10,
Switzerland

Email : urgent-action@ohchr.org

27 October 2008

Dear Special Rapporteur Frank William La Rue Lewy:

On 29 October 2008 you will be a featured speaker at the International Symposium on Freedom of Expression to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. My understanding is that you hold that, in combination, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UNESCO Constitution provide irrefutable evidence in the belief that freedom of opinion and of expression constitute the cornerstone of any democratic society and a fundamental basis for development.

The first of the three sessions of the Symposium will address Freedom of Expression with regard to Development, the second Freedom of Expression with regard to Democracy, and the third Freedom of Expression with regard to Dialogue. That is, "Development," "Democracy" and "Dialogue" are all seen to be dependent on Freedom of Expression. I agree.

At the same time, you must be aware that Nations such as Germany, Israel, France, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and others deny Freedom of Expression to those who question the taboo that protects the Holocaust question from being addressed in the routine manner that all other historical questions are addressed. That those who do question the Holocaust in full or in part are subject to arrest, trial, and imprisonment in those countries for having an opinion about history.

At this moment the Australian writer, Fredrick Toben, is in a British jail awaiting extradition to Germany to be tried for the "crime" of asking taboo questions about the Holocaust. Does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, does the UNESCO Constitution, have anything to say about this? Will you have anything to say about this as a featured speaker at the Symposium?

UNESCO argues that "journalists are under increasing attack and good journalism is endangered, especially in societies that would most benefit from a pluralistic and independent media ... This violence constitutes one of the greatest threats to freedom of expression and freedom of the press."

Do you not agree that "all" societies would benefit from a pluralistic and independent media, even German society where revisionist writers and publishers are now in prison for asking questions about history? French society? Swiss society? Or is it only those societies we identify as being in the "Third World" that are in need of a pluralistic and independent media?

We all agree with UNESCO that when a journalist is imprisoned for having written something that offends his Government it is inexcusable - in Thailand, or Burma, or Kenya. But when a journalist or publisher is imprisoned in Germany or France or Austria for writing something that offends his government we are perfectly willing to rationalize it. Do you believe we should judge press freedom one way in Asian and African nations, but use a different standard to judge press freedom in Europe?

I would hope that you, as the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Procedures Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, would address this issue at the 29 October Symposium. Why would you not?

Thank you for your attention.

Bradley R. Smith
Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust
PO Box 439016
San Ysidro, California 92143
Desk: 209 682 5327

Note: I will copy this to some of your colleagues.

Blog: http://bradleysmithsblog.blogspot.com/
Web: www.codoh.com