Beyond parody with Katie Hopkins: Royal UN Offical tells British media that free speech has its limits
Katie Hopkins compares migrants to ‘cockroaches in her outrageous-to-deadline Sun newspaper column. And the UN high commissioner for human rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan, says:
“The Nazi media described people their masters wanted to eliminate as rats and cockroaches. This type of language is clearly inflammatory and unacceptable, especially in a national newspaper. The Sun’s editors took an editorial decision to publish this article, and – if it is found in breach of the law – should be held responsible along with the author.”
And on he went:
“This vicious verbal assault on migrants and asylum seekers in the UK tabloid press has continued unchallenged under the law for far too long. I am an unswerving advocate of freedom of expression, which is guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), but it is not absolute.”
But me no buts. You cannot be unswerving in support of free speech and then say it has limits.
“The commissioner also accused the Daily Express of seeking to whip up anti-foreigner prejudice. To give just one glimpse of the scale of the problem, back in 2003 the Daily Express ran 22 negative front pages stories about asylum seekers and refugees in a single 31-day period…. Asylum seekers and migrants have, day after day, for years on end, been linked to rape, murder, diseases such as HIV and TB, theft, and almost every conceivable crime and misdemeanour imaginable in front-page articles and two-page spreads, in cartoons, editorials, even on the sports pages of almost all the UK’s national tabloid newspapers. History has shown us time and again the dangers of demonising foreigners and minorities, and it is extraordinary and deeply shameful to see these types of tactics being used in a variety of countries, simply because racism and xenophobia are so easy to arouse in order to win votes or sell newspapers.”
So sayeth the UN about free speech and its limits. Current members of the UN Human Rights Council include, for example, such bastions of equality and free speech as Saudi Arabia and Gabon, where the state-run media regulatory agency, the National Communications Council, suspended three newspapers in 2013, one of them a satirical work.