Yeah: blasphemy. According to CNN’s Lou Dobbs, the Drink-Soaked Ex-Trotskyite Popinjay for War Christopher Hitchens and assorted others, ‘freedom of speech’ in the West is being imperilled by the United Nations, which as I write these words is seeking to criminalise the act of ‘defaming’ Islam.
Don’t believe me?
Think I exaggerate?
Actually, I don’t blame you.
It’s not true.
I’ve watched the CNN report, which is introduced by Dobbs as follows:
Lou Dobbs: There is a major effort taking place to curb free speech in this country irrespective of our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, and free-speech advocates say the United Nations has come down on precisely the wrong side. The United Nations has adopted what it calls a resolution combatting defamation of religions. The United Nations now wants to make that anti-blasphemy resolution binding on member nations, including of course our own. That would make it a crime in the United States — if the United Nations were to have its way — to criticise religion. In particular Islam. Kitty Pilgrim has our report.
Kitty Pilgrim: The UN General Assembly is considering a binding resolution urging member states to make it a crime to criticise Islam…
Blah blah blah.
Kitty quotes from a number of sources. First, UN Resolution No.62/154, titled ‘Combating defamation of religions’ [PDF]. The 19-point resolution was adopted by the General Assembly at its 76th plenary meeting. This meeting took place on December 18, 2007. The passage quoted by CNN [italics] is taken from a paragraph which reads as follows:
12. Also urges States to provide, within their respective legal and constitutional systems, adequate protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions, to take all possible measures to promote tolerance and respect for all religions and beliefs and the understanding of their value systems and to complement legal systems with intellectual and moral strategies to combat religious hatred and intolerance;
Kitty also quotes from the document ‘United States Government Response to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights concerning Combating Defamation of Religions’, issued by the United States Mission in Geneva on July 11, 2008:
While appearing in name to promote tolerance, [the] implementation of this concept actually fosters intolerance and has served to justify restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms such as the freedoms of religion and expression for all persons, including those who may or may not belong to a particular faith. Accordingly, the United States considers this concept to be inherently flawed.
Kitty then quotes a document produced by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on ‘Combating defamation of religions’, presented at the Octopus Interface Conference 2007, Cooperation against Cybercrime, Strasbourg, on June 11/12, 2007 [PDF]:
OIC supports the resolution on ‘Combating Defamation of Religions’ (A/HRC/4/L.12) adopted at the Fourth Session of the UN Human Rights Council held in Geneva. This resolution is a major step towards sensitizing the international community on the serious impact of defamation of religions and the urgent need for cooperation of all to address the issue.
Geneva, March 11, 2009 — A new U.N. resolution circulated today by Islamic states would define any questioning of Islamic dogma as a human rights violation, intimidate dissenting voices, and encourage the forced imposition of Sharia law. (See full U.N. text below.)
UN Watch obtained a copy of the Pakistani-authored proposal after it was distributed today among Geneva diplomats attending the current session of the UN Human Rights Council. Entitled “Combating defamation of religions,” it mentions only Islam.
While non-binding, the resolution constitutes a dangerous threat to free speech everywhere. It would ban any perceived offense to Islamic sensitivities as a “serious affront to human dignity” and a violation of religious freedom, and would pressure U.N. member states — at the “local, national, regional and international levels” — to erode free speech guarantees in their “legal and constitutional systems.”
In reality, UN resolutions on ‘Combating defamation of religions’ are nothing new. As Fox News noted last October (U.N. Anti-Blasphemy Resolution Curtails Free Speech, Critics Say, October 6, 2008):
Pakistan and the Organization of the Islamic Conference introduced the measure to the U.N. Human Rights Council in 1999. It was amended to include religions other than Islam, and it has passed every year since. In 2005, Yemen successfully brought a similar resolution before the General Assembly. Now the 192-nation Assembly is set to vote on it again.
It’s important to note, in this context, that this is a non-binding resolution. In other words, member states are free to ignore it. In fact, the UN General Assembly is institutionally incapable of passing binding resolutions: these are the exclusive domain of the UN Security Council. Further, the five permanent members of the Council — China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and United States — have the power to veto any resolution.
According to UN Watch, the Pakistani proposal may be tabled at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council. The UNHRC has no authority except to make recommendations to the General Assembly; the GA has no authority except to advise the Security Council.
- A proposal regarding ‘Combating Defamation of Religions’ may or may not be put to the UNHRC;
The UNHRC may or may not adopt it;
If it does adopt it, it may be recommended for adoption by the General Assembly;
The GA may or may not adopt it as a non-binding resolution;
If it does adopt it as a non-binding resolution, its adoption will have zero implications for laws regarding defamation in any member state; that is, unless a member state voluntarily elects to act upon it. Obviously, each and every member state is free to adopt laws — whether regarding defamation, duck hunting or anything else — whether or not particular non-binding resolutions are passed by the UN’s GA.
The CNN story is alarmist, and untruthful. Denunciation of the UN for its alleged attacks upon US sovereignty is a staple of right-wing discourse in the US, and this particular example is aimed at further undermining its legitimacy. The timing of the story, which in the commentary is portrayed as being yet another example of the Islamic goal of pursuing world domination, given that it concerns resolutions which have been adopted in one form or another for the past decade, may reasonably be interpreted as an attempt to render future UN projects that much more suspect in the eyes of the US public.
Mark Leon Goldberg comments (Lou Dobbs on “UN Anti-Blasphemy” Resolution, Gets Facts Wrong, UN Dispatch, March 2, 2009):
Despite Dobbs’ hyperventilating, there is really not much to this. The 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Conferences periodically bring up some sort of anti-blasphemy resolution in UN forums. This [is] done for domestic political consumption — i.e. politicians in OIC countries table symbolic resolutions like this to curry favor with the religious right (sound familiar?). There’s never [sic] been an anti-blasphemy resolution passed in the General Assembly and I don’t expect there ever will be.
The segment is full of factual inaccuracies — mainly, there is no such thing as a “binding General Assembly resolution.” Contra Dobbs, there are only two ways way the United Nations could impose anti-blasphemy laws on Americans. 1) Through some sort of anti-[blasphemy] treaty convention, which the president signs and the Senate ratifies. 2) If the Security Council (on which the United States holds veto power) orders member states to adopt anti-blasphemy laws by invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
I would submit to you, dear reader, that both scenarios are highly unlikely. The UN thought police will stay put in their black helicopters for the time being.
On March 4, One More Thought on the “Anti-Blasphemy” Kerfuffle.
None of which is to suggest that states and non-state actors do not criminalise ‘religious defamation’. In the UK, for example, it was only last year that the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel were abolished. (See : A brief history of blasphemy, Richard Webster, 1992.) In Afghanistan:
Afghan journalists protest against weak security
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) — Afghan journalists protested Thursday against poor security after a reporter was shot dead, with Amnesty International warning the media was under threat in Afghanistan… [Afghanistan: Freedom of expression faces increasing threat, March 12, 2009]
Amnesty issued a statement warning that the murder and sentencing of another Afghan reporter to 20 years in jail for blasphemy showed that freedom of expression was under threat in the fledgling democracy…
The watchdog echoed calls by media rights groups for President Hamid Karzai to pardon Perwiz Kambakhsh for the blasphemy charges, which related to articles critical of Islam that were downloaded from the Internet.
Kambakhsh was initially sentenced to death.
The repressive policies of the Taliban regime, which ruled in Kabul from 1996-2001, were touted as a justification for the international intervention that toppled the hardline government in 2001, Amnesty said.
“Foreign governments who provide military assistance and aid to Afghanistan therefore should help ensure that the human rights of Afghan people are upheld,” Zarifi said.
Unfortunately, but predictably:
Student’s long blasphemy term upheld in Afghanistan
Abdul Waheed Wafa and Carlotta Gall
March 12, 2009
KABUL: The Supreme Court in Afghanistan has upheld a 20-year prison sentence for an Afghan university student journalist accused of blasphemy. The case has alarmed news media and rights organizations in the country and abroad.
The student’s family and lawyers said Wednesday that they had learned only recently about the court decision, which was made in secret on Feb. 12, and they called the procedure illegal.
The student, Parwiz Kambakhsh, 24, from northern Afghanistan, was arrested in 2007 and sentenced to death for blasphemy after accusations that he had written and distributed an article about the role of women in Islam. Kambakhsh has denied having written the article and said he had downloaded it from the Internet. His family and lawyers say he has been denied a fair trial.
In 2008, an appeals court in Kabul commuted the death sentence to 20 years’ imprisonment, a decision that was upheld by a tribunal of the Supreme Court last month.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has confirmed the 20-year prison sentence for my brother,” said Yaqoub Ibrahimi, who is Kambakhsh’s brother. “We did not expect it at all.”
RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, is calling on people outside of Afghanistan to demand Kambakhsh’s release from prison, noting that “Today the law of the strongest is the only law ruling in Afghanistan. Whoever dares to oppose the fundamentalists in power and the religious authorities is punished with harsh sentences, threatened, pushed to leave the country, killed, prosecuted by the secret intelligence.”
From April 20–24, the UN has scheduled a ‘Durban Review Conference’ to take place in Geneva. The conference is intended to review the ‘Declaration’ of and progress made towards realising the aims expressed within it since the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR), held in Durban. The Australian Government is sending a delegation.
Or to put it another way: “WHY on earth is the Rudd Government going to a festival of hate against Israel and the West?”
In support of his contention that the event is a hate-fest, Andrew Bolt (Bolt asks why Rudd wants a UN Security Council seat, Herald Sun, March 13, 2009) refers to the Declaration. Actually, Bolt does not examine the Declaration of 2001 — although he does provide a broken link to it — but a draft declaration intended for discussion at the Review conference, a ‘Revised version of the technically reviewed text (A/CONF.211/PC/WG.2/CRP.2) submitted by the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the intersessional open-ended working group mandated to continue and finalize the process of negotiations on and drafting of the outcome document’ [PDF].
According to Bolt: “You will read a tirade that emphasises the sins of the West above those of the rest, suggests restrictions on free speech to save Islam from criticism, and blames colonialism for Third World dysfunction, for which it demands compensation.” Bolt denounces the draft for its apparent selectivity. According to Bolt, “only one country” is denounced: Israel. “Only one faith is singled out as needing protection from free speech”: Islam. And “only one slave trade is singled out for a day of international commemoration and reparations”: that of pre-Civil War America.
Bolt’s rant takes place in the context of appeals on the part of some for the Australian government to boycott the Geneva conference, and his own speculation that KRudd’s ‘pandering’ to the UN stems from KRudd’s desire to gain a seat on the Security Council. Regarding the declaration which Bolt excoriates, note that, as of January 23, 2009, “Only highlighted provisions were adopted ad referendum. Text that is not highlighted remains to be negotiated. This includes bracketed text which was subject to a request for deletion and bold text in brackets which was introduced by a delegation of a Member State. The remainder of the text was not part of the first reading due to time constraints.” Thus, in relation to the ‘Middle East’, the text reads:
[(Middle East)] [proposal to delete cluster]
30. [Expresses deep concern at the practices of racial discrimination against the Palestinian people as well as [Syrian nationals of the occupied Syrian Golan] [other inhabitants of the Arab occupied territories] which have an impact on all aspects of their daily existence and prevent the enjoyment of fundamental rights, and renews the call for the cessation of all such practices;]
31. [Reiterates that the Palestinian people have the inalienable right to self determination and that, in order to consolidate the [Israeli] occupation, they have been subjected to unlawful collective punishment, torture, economic blockade, severe restriction of movement and arbitrary closure of their territories. Also notes [with concern] that illegal settlements continue to be built in the occupied [Arab] territories [since 1967];]
32. [Reaffirms that a foreign occupation founded on settlements, laws based on racial discrimination with the aim of continuing domination of the occupied territory[y][ies], as well as the practice of reinforcing a total military blockade, isolating towns, villages and cities from one another, [totally] contradicts the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations [and constitutes a serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, a crime against humanity, a contemporary form of apartheid and serious threat to international peace and security] [and violates the basic principles of international human rights law];]
[NEW PARA: Expresses deep concern at the plight of Palestinian refugees and other inhabitants of the Arab occupied territories as well as displaced persons who were forced to leave their homes because of war and racial policies of the occupying power and who are prevented from returning to their homes and properties because of a racially-based law of return. It recognizes the right of return of Palestinian refugees as established by the General Assembly in its resolutions, particularly resolution 194 of 11 December 1948, and calls for the return to their homeland in accordance with and in implementation of this right;]
33. [Reiterates deep concern about the plight of the Palestinian people [as well as inhabitants of the other occupied territories] under foreign occupation, [including the obstruction of the return of refugees and displaced persons, and the construction of the segregation wall,] and urges respect for international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, and calls for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region;]
34. [Re-emphasizes the responsibility of the international community to provide international protection, in particular from racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, for [Palestinian] civilian populations under occupation in conformity with international human rights law and international humanitarian law;]
[Proposal to include reference to Gaza situation – language to be provided]
A careful reading of the text, in other words, reveals that what Bolt asserts as to its contents, and what he claims the Australian government will be committing to should it attend the Geneva conference, are false. According to Bolt, ‘Israel… is accused of torture, collective punishment of Muslims, “apartheid” and “crime against humanity”.’ In fact, the draft makes one explicit reference to Israel; there are several references to “apartheid” in the draft. For example, Paragraph 156:
Urges States that have not yet condemned, apologized and paid reparations for the grave and massive violations as well as the massive human suffering caused by slavery, the slave trade, the transatlantic slave trade, apartheid, colonialism and genocide, to do so at the earliest;
On ‘slavery’, the draft declaration also proposes the insertion of a new paragraph, under the subtitle ‘Slave trade, traditional forms of slavery, colonialism, historic injustices, remembering past tragedies, apologies’:
NEW PARA: Acknowledging that slavery and the transatlantic slave trade were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity and were a crime against humanity;
19. [Pays tribute to countries and personalities who lent their valuable support to Africa during its struggle against institutionalized racism, colonialism and apartheid;]
NEW PARA: Recognizes that individuals, groups, peoples and nations that are affected by [the violation of] [discriminatory] policies and practices, such as colonialism, slavery and ethnic cleansing based on theories of racial national superiority, hatred and distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, as well as culture, religion and language as victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and have the right to address these scourges;
20. Welcomes the actions taken to commemorate the memory of victims of slavery and the slave trade in particular the transatlantic slave trade [and the abolition of those historic tragedies and including the establishment of national, regional-hemispheric bicentennial committees to commemorate the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade [and stresses the need to similarly address the trans-Saharan slave trade and the slave trade in the Indian Ocean.] [Also] Welcomes the adoption of GA Resolutions 61/19 and 62/122 related to the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and remembrance of its victims and, in particular, the designation of 25 March as the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade [as a complement to the existing International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its Abolition of UNESCO];]
And so on and so on and so on.
On religion, paragraphs 23 and 24, under the subtitle ‘Freedom of religion, incitement to religious intolerance, hatred, or violence, defamation of religion, freedom of expression’, read as follows:
23. Reaffirms the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief and expresses concern over intolerance[s] and discrimination [practiced, misusing religions or belief] [on the grounds] [and] [in the name] of religion or belief;
24. Recognizes with deep concern the global rise in the number of incidents of intolerance and violence against members of religious minorities in various parts of the world [in particular] motivated by [different forms of religious intolerance] [Islamophobia, anti-Arabism, anti-Semitism and Christianophobia];
26. [[Notes with concern] [Seriously concerned at the] instances of defamation of religions, which manifests itself in [projecting negative, insulting and derogatory images of religions and religious personalities,] generalized and stereotypical association of religions, in particular Islam, with violence and terrorism, thus impacting negatively on the rights of individuals belonging to these religions, including Muslim minorities, and exposing them to hatred and discrimination. Such situations are further aggravated by the imposition of restrictions on the profession of religions, including [the surveillance of places of worship and restrictions on their construction] [the construction of places of worship and their surveillance];]
Acknowledges that a most disturbing phenomenon is the intellectual and ideological validation of Islamophobia. When it is expressed against migrants it takes the form of religious-ethnic or religious-racial tones, when it is expressed in the form of defamation of religions, it takes cover behind the freedom of expression and when it is expressed in the form of profiling, it hides behind the war against terrorism. Believes that association of terrorism and violence with Islam or any other religion, including through publication of offensive caricatures and making of hate documentaries, would purposely complicate our common endeavours to address several contemporary issues, including the fight against terrorism and the occupation of foreign territories and peoples;
Bolt makes a number of other specific claims in his article. First, concerning the ‘infamous 2001 Durban meeting… even Foreign Minister Stephen Smith admits [it] was “an anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic harangue”.’ This in untrue. In fact, in an interview on ABC Radio (March 13, 2009), Smith stated: “The Australian government will give very careful consideration to what if any changes are made to the text to see whether it is appropriate for Australia to participate in the conference. If we formed the view that the text is going to lead to nothing more than an anti-Jewish anti-Semitic harangue, an anti-Jewish propaganda exercise, Australia will not be in attendance.”
Secondly, Bolt claims that ‘Here’s what Canada has decided: it’s boycotting this Geneva meeting because of the draft declaration’s “expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism”.’ According to a report by the CBC (Canada snubs UN anti-racism conference, January 23, 2008): ‘In a statement released Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier said that while Canada participated in the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, it will not attend a followup event in 2009. “Unfortunately, that [first] conference degenerated into open and divisive expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism that undermined the principles of the United Nations and the very goals the conference sought to achieve,” the statement read.’
That is, the Canadian government issued a statement in January 2008 regarding the Durban conference of 2001; it did not issue a statement ‘boycotting this Geneva meeting because of the draft declaration‘s “expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism”.’
Bolt’s tirade against the Geneva conference — “it’s already as clear as a swastika what the agenda of this meeting is” — is not unique. In fact, so extensive has been this campaign that last December the Spokesperson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a Press Release intended to address many of these criticisms; criticisms which, they argue, are based on distortions of the factual record.
Much like Bolt’s article.
Press Release : Distortions plague anti-racism conference
December 12, 2008
Rupert Colville, Spokesperson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Within a few hours of each other, on 9 and 10 December, the Wall Street Journal and The Australian – both serious newspapers with long-established records of honest, factual reporting – published editorials focusing partly or wholly on an international conference on racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance that is scheduled to take place in Geneva next April. The purpose of this Durban Review Conference (sometimes misleadingly referred to as ‘Durban II’) is to examine the implementation of the outcome document of the World Conference against Racism which took place in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.
Unfortunately both newspapers replay a number of factual distortions which have become increasingly widespread on the internet over the past year, including numerous references to the review conference as an anti-Semitic “hate-fest.”
A Google search on 10 December, using “fest” in conjunction with ‘Durban’ and ‘hate’ or ‘anti-Semitic,’ produced 49,900 web-page hits.* “Hate-fest” is not a common phrase, but it has been used in connection with the Durban process by people ranging from the Canadian Prime Minister to other politicians, academics, journalists, anti-Durban NGOs and a huge number of bloggers and other commentators.
The 2001 World Conference was indeed marred by the grotesque behaviour of some anti-Israel NGOs at the parallel NGO forum. Their inexcusable anti-Semitic actions, coupled with some difficult debates at the state level, have unfortunately cast the entire 2001 Conference and next year’s review in a negative light that is, by and large, unmerited.
Next year’s conference will focus on the 2001 outcome document, known as the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action (DDPA), which was adopted by consensus at the end of the 2001 World Conference. The DDPA consists of 341 paragraphs, of which six refer to the Middle East, anti-Semitism and directly related issues.
The first of those says: “We recall that the Holocaust must never be forgotten.” The second says “We recognize with deep concern the increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in various parts of the world, as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities.”
The remaining four paragraphs include references to “the plight of the Palestinian people” and “the right to security for all States in the region, including Israel,” as well as calling upon “Israel and the Palestinians to resume the peace process, and to develop and prosper in security and freedom.”
The contents of the DDPA were agreed by all the states present at the end of the 2001 conference. It is a fundamental, thorough and very wide-ranging framework document on racism and related issues. It takes a vivid imagination to turn it into the manifesto of a “hate-fest.”
There are other specific distortions centred on two main aspects: firstly a widely repeated allegation that control of the Review Conference’s preparatory process, steered by an organizational body of 20 states, has been seized by a group of three countries, namely Libya (whose representative is the Chair), Cuba (Rapporteur/Vice Chair), and Iran (Vice-Chair). Such reports imply that these three states have an enormous amount of executive power. They do not. Chairpersons of bodies of this type fulfill an essentially functional role and are not in a position to push their own country’s agenda.
Such reports also routinely – and in some cases deliberately – omit to mention that, along with Iran and Cuba, there are 17 other Vice-Chairs including Belgium, Greece, Norway, Turkey, Armenia, Croatia, Estonia, Senegal, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. The role of the Rapporteur/Vice-Chair is to oversee reports on proceedings produced by UN staff. If those reports were in any way distorted, the other Vice Chairs could – and would – intervene.
The second area of distortion involves some condemnatory language on Israel that is described in both the Wall Street Journal and The Australian as being included in the “draft declaration” being prepared for the Review Conference. This is also misleading. There is currently no draft declaration in existence. The contentious language was included in one of four regional inputs, which have been combined with various other texts into a basic (and not necessarily complete) background compilation.
In the negotiations ahead, delegations will try to narrow differences, find common ground and work out compromises so as to arrive at a consensus document. As in all negotiations of this type, the text that remains at the end of the process will be something that is agreeable to all states taking part.
Another clear example of distortion is an article that appeared on the Forbes website on 4 December, written by the journalist Claudia Rosett (who also writes on occasion for the Wall Street Journal). Rosett had been briefed at great length by UN human rights officials about the limited role played by the Chair, and the fact that there are 19 Vice-Chairs whose votes and views have equal weight. She was also clearly informed that all decisions of this 20-country ‘Bureau’ (four countries per region) have so far been reached by consensus.
[See: The U.N.’s Racist Conference On Racism, Claudia Rosett, Forbes, December 4, 2008.]
Rosett’s article brushed all this aside: “Among the vice-chairs of the preparatory committee,” she wrote, “are emissaries of such unfree countries as Iran, Russia, Pakistan and Cameroon (which, according to New York-based Freedom House, still tolerates slavery in its northern reaches). Cuba – where wholesale repression includes the additional frill of job discrimination against Afro-Cubans – fills two seats at this Durban II table, which features both a Cuban vice-chair and Cuba as Rapporteur.”
Rosett even went so far as to try and imply the review conference process is somehow complicit in “the terrorist assault in Mumbai – in which hundreds were murdered, but where the targets most deliberately hunted down were Americans, Britons and Jews.”
The issues covered by this review process – racism, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance – are extremely important and can have a devastating impact on human rights. They affect myriad groups, and millions of individuals, across the world on a daily basis. They clearly merit serious discussion in international fora. It would be a sad state of affairs if, as a result of concerted efforts to derail this review conference, such discussion – which inevitably touches on controversial and sensitive areas – is rendered taboo.
* Google searches using the same terms on different days have produced both much higher and much lower numbers of hits. The figure cited is close to the median. A simpler search on 18 December using “fest” as the exact term, and ‘Durban’ and ‘hate’ in the ‘all these words’ searchline, produced 49,200 hits with few false matches. Another example of the misleading information surrounding the Durban process is contained in a full-page advertisement that appeared in the New York Sun on April 3 2008. The advertisement was built around the central theme – “What does the Durban Declaration declare? That ISRAEL, and only ISRAEL, is guilty of racism.” It declares no such thing.
The above article was sent on 12 December to the Wall Street Journal, The Australian and Forbes.com by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Given that distorted information about an up-coming anti-racism review conference is now being repeated on a regular basis in major newspapers, which operate under journalistic codes of ethical conduct, OHCHR – which acts as secretariat for the conference process – urges journalists and editors to be alert to the distortions affecting the coverage of this event.
This article may be reproduced in its entirety, in print or on-line. Notification of publication should be sent to: [email protected], and headed “Durban article.”