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The Soviet-Russian era had complete freedom of speech, according to the Communist Party. A writer who wanted to publish a book was free to do so. The West asked why dissident authors' books weren't published. The answer was that they couldn't find an interested publisher for it. Gosh, what a shame. The punch line, of course, was that there was only one publisher in the USSR; the Communist Party-led State Publishing House.
Manuscripts of dissident works were therefore smuggled out of the Eastern Bloc and published in the West. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote The Gulag Archipelago (published Paris, 1973). It describes the inhumane conditions in the "corrective" Soviet labor camps for "re-education" of dissidents. Vassili Grossman, a Russian Jewish writer and war correspondent, wrote Life and Lot. It describes what happened to a Russian family during WWII. A book about people in difficult times under the regime of Stalin; war, hunger, on the doorstep of the gas chambers. This book was also banned, smuggled out of Russia and published in the West in 1980.

A hallmark of totalitarian regimes is that freedom of speech is free as long as it is an opinion approved by the state. Other opinions are actively contested or publications are made impossible. We now see the same phenomenon in our society, or what is left of it. Plans are circulating that The Hague and Brussels will prohibit 'fake news' about corona by law.
These 'democrats' thus join a line of illustrious predecessors: Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Mao Zedong, Hitler, Putin, Pinochet. Closer to home, similar dictatorial people: Franco (Spain), Papadopoulos (Greece), Ceaușescu (Romania), Salazar (Portugal), Hoxha (Albania), Honecker (GDR). More recently, Erdohan (Turkey). Most recently, Rutte: 'In a democracy everyone is free to cherish his opinion', and at the same time he is hatching plans to restrict freedom of expression.
Freedom of speech is one of the first sensors to register that democracy and civil rights are going in the wrong direction.

The fact that freedom of expression is under pressure is not new. It is perhaps best illustrated by the contrast between the Islamic and Western world. Salman Rushdie published the book 'The Satanic Verses' in 1988 and saw a fatwa, a death sentence, handed down by the then religious leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeiny. In 2005 there was a commotion in Denmark because of the Mohammed cartoons. The writer Kaare Bluitgen did not find a draftsman for his children's book about Mohammed. The Jyllands-Posten then asked artists to make a caricature of Mohammed for an article about self-censorship and freedom of expression. Muslims (as well as non-Muslims) took offense at it and saw them as provocation, insulting or blaspheming.
Paris, January 7, 2015. Extremist Muslims attack the editorial staff of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. 12 dead; freedom of expression does not please terrorists. Media and politics tumbled over each other to condemn them. Now they demonize dissenters themselves.


In the west it is only slightly better. American actors, such as George Clooney, who asked questions about the legitimacy of the Iraq war and its presence in Afghanistan, were cast in a suspicious light. Michael Moore makes socially critical documentaries. In Bowling for Columbine he denounces the absurdity of free gun ownership in America. In Fahrenheit 9/11, he opens a book about the Bush clan's political corruption and cronyism. He is seen as a reprehensible, left-wing, anti-American piece of grief that should be silenced. Disney, for example, refused to distribute its documentaries, and internet censorship is commonplace and often fueled by economic concerns.



Freedom of expression is an essential and central concept in a democracy. The freedom to express your opinion without fear of prosecution is so important to us that it is anchored in fundamental legal sources. To get a picture of how that fundamental right is anchored, we look at those sources: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Constitution and then to the restrictions on freedom of speech.

The Declaration has two versions: a Western version and an Islamic version; a smudge sign.
According to the Dikke van Dale, the word universal means: 'all over the world, with everyone, occurring everywhere, relating to everyone'. But apparently those rights are less universal than the word universally expresses and depend on a particular angle. How does that work?

Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Western version
The Universal Declaration was adopted by the UN in 1948 and sets out basic human rights. Strangely enough, it is not binding, but at the same time it is the basis for two binding UN treaties on human rights, including the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Universal Declaration is still being cited by scientists, lawyers and constitutional courts. The point of discussion is whether parts of the statement comply with usual international law. Opinions on this are divided worldwide, from a single part to the entire statement. Non-Western, Islamic countries in particular dispute the universal character. I will come back to the why later. What does western version say about freedom of speech?


Article 19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and transmit information and ideas by any means and regardless of frontiers.

Article 30 is also important. This clearly states that nothing or no one has the right to violate, undermine or limit these rights in any way. The Universal Declaration does not refer to any other document. In this way she is one in herself. And that is also the big difference with the ..

Islamic Universal Declaration of Human Rights
It dates from 1981. Many in the Islamic world disagreed with the Universal Declaration. It came about without knowing the Islamic world in it. That was also a bit difficult. In 1948 many of these states were still under colonial administration or Western protectorate. They were therefore unable to sign the Universal Declaration. Moreover, the Western Declaration completely ignored the fact that Islamic society is shaped by the Koran. Now what does the Islamic Declaration say on the same subjects?

Article XII. Right to freedom of belief, ideas and expression. This article says much the same as the Universal Declaration on freedom of speech. The right to protest against oppression, dissemination of information and respect for other beliefs is also mentioned.
But at the same time it prohibits the article such as defamation or defamation and limits the spread of untruths and information.

The original text refers to 'the law' three times. In Article 24 it appears to be Sharia. Sharia is the only source of reference to explain or clarify all the provisions of the Islamic Declaration. (8. Sharia) With that, Sharia is, as it were, on top of the Islamic Universal Declaration. From a Western perspective, this gives the impression that equality, especially of women and religious minorities, is being ignored or circumvented. The Western Declaration, on the other hand, does not refer to any other document; she's on top of the pile.

Article 7 deals with freedom of expression. It says anyone is free to share their thoughts or feelings through the printing press, radio, TV or any other means. There are restrictions on commercial advertising and showing porn to minors.
However, the article also refers to 'responsibility to the law' four times. For example, the Constitution opens the door wide to the legislator (government and the Lower House, then the Lower House) to impose restrictions. Because the Netherlands does not have a constitutional court that tests new laws against the Constitution, the legislator has to do this itself. That is the butcher who inspects his own meat and the result is it. See the series Why Our Democracy Fails, Part 2. Or as Bismarck once remarked: 'Laws are like sausages. You better not know how they were made. ' And he was right.
In concrete terms, it means that the legislator can prohibit any opinion that is not acceptable to them.


We saw earlier that the Islamic Declaration imposes restrictions on this fundamental right through Sharia. But contrary to what many may think, it is no different in the free West. It would also be incredibly naive to think that. Despite the Universal Declaration prohibiting it, there are many legal restrictions. Sharia is on top of the Islamic Declaration and in the West, governments simply superimpose their laws on the Universal Declaration! Exit freedom of speech.

A number of restrictions are found in Dutch criminal law. These are aimed against scornful language and incitement to hatred, insulting authorities and the spread of lies (slander and libel), but less or not against obscenity or violations of good taste.

But that's not the only bump. The most important restrictions also stem from the Constitution, Article 1: 'All who are in the Netherlands must be treated equally in equal cases. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race, gender or on any grounds whatsoever is not allowed. '
This article is the anti-discrimination article. Violations against this article have been elaborated in other laws and regulations such as the Criminal Code and the General Equal Treatment Act. What do we find then?

The Criminal Code, Article 137 prohibits the deliberate insulting of people on the basis of their race, their religion or belief, their heterosexual or homosexual orientation or their physical, psychological or mental disability. But when is there intent? Well, if it can reasonably be estimated that someone may feel attacked or insulted, it is intentional! Just stand on it. Before you know it you will be on someone's sensitive toes. BLM is a good example. When people said that everyone's life matters, they were completely politically correct denounced and publicly pilloried. As if black lives are more important than the lives of yellow, white, brown or any color of people.

Inciting or provoking discrimination or hatred is also not allowed. Insulting statements or the distribution or stocking of items for that purpose is also prohibited. Public insulting someone because of his origin or religion is also not allowed.

Dutch law seems clear; freedom of expression ends where discrimination begins. It is unclear exactly where the boundaries lie. The judge often has to be involved in determining this. The Wilders case was controversial. He was charged about the film Fitna and an interview and opinion piece in the Volkskrant. The judges acquitted Wilders completely. Various media, including foreign media, spoke of a victory for freedom of expression. But it is not clear which civil rights are most important, anti-discrimination or freedom of expression.


The European Convention on Human Rights also imposes many restrictions on freedom of expression. Here too there is a strong link with the anti-discrimination article (art. 14) in the European Treaty.

According to art. 10 of the European Treaty, freedom of expression may only be restricted if it is enshrined in law. It's quite a list but the bottom line is simple; exit freedom of speech as soon as it is convenient for the legislator.

But even when freedom of speech is not (yet) restricted by law, politicians see no objection to making an attempt. Rouvoet (CU), for example, tried to prevent the TV showing of the movie Deep Throat. At that time Rouvoet nailed his Statenbijbel to our Constitution. And Blokhuis (State Secretary of Public Health) wanted to remove books from the sale that are critical of vaccination in May last year.

In her 2006 Christmas address, Queen Beatrix emphasized that, in her opinion, freedom of speech ends where insulting begins. The queen was free to agree and many people would agree with her, but that is not legally correct.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that freedom of expression does not end where others are disturbed, hurt or shocked.


The development of the Internet has opened new possibilities for achieving freedom of expression through methods that do not depend on legal measures. Blogs, internet forums, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter were seen as a safe haven for widely disseminating opinions and gathering information. But because of their censorship, they are definitively served as a distributor of information or a platform to express an opinion. After all, anyone who thinks differently about the claimed danger of corona than the formally approved state view is banned, censored. Even Trump was removed from Facebook on Oct. 6 for thinking differently about corona than is considered politically correct.

On the other hand we see WikiLeaks, Bit torrent technology and data ports such as Freenet and HavenCo. They provide many freedoms because the technology ensures that material cannot be censored and that the author is impossible to link to a physical identity, computer or organization.

Dutch internet sites are being shut down for the opinions they express. And forum editors determine what is a 'correct' opinion and which is 'undesirable'. In their opinion, the Internet Discrimination Hotline also detects incorrect statements and makes every effort to have them removed.
In short, the censor of all kinds of media multinationals, editorial boards of forums and all kinds of self-proclaimed 'culture guards' nail their rules on top of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They believe that their rights are more important than a fundamental right such as freedom of expression.

Jokes about negroes, Belgians, women, pastors, priests, gays, political affiliation, rich bastards, poverty-mongers, mentally or physically handicapped, politicians and so on could easily be put under the heading discrimination. Where is the limit of the freedom to say what you think? Where does discrimination begin? In other words; which of these two fundamental rights do we consider most important? Can you designate one fundamental right as the most important and dispose of the rest as bulky waste or is a nuanced consideration required?

During every revolution, those groups are invariably arrested that differ profoundly from what the mainstream is calling, which is propagated by authorities. Intellectuals, philosophers, students, the non-state-minded press, union leaders, anyone who opposes is the leapfrog. This group is labeled as hostile to the state, the target of state persecution and outlawed. Thus, any supporter of the regime can go about their business with impunity, more so with a blind eye to the state's approval. That starts with harassment and then vandalism and then escalates. The stone through the window by Willem Engel of Virus Truth evokes memories of the night of 9 to 10 November 1938, Kristalnacht. Who is next with a stone through his window with a protest poster on it?
And so it goes every time. Enough examples. The 'rich' kulaks under Stalin, the intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution under Mao in China, the Jews in fascist Germany, McCarthyism (the Red Fear) in the US where everyone with red hair was suspected of communist sympathies, so to speak . Whistleblowers like Assange, Snowden and Manning are still prosecuted and, if possible, imprisoned.


But dissent is important because as Adlai Stevenson says, "Every progress has been made by people who took an unpopular stand." And that is a truth as a cow.
Imagine if William of Orange had said: 'Well, that fuss about religion is not that important. Let it go'. Or that Columbus had said: 'You are right. The world is flat. If I stay nice and close to the coast then I won't fall off either '. Or Ghandi, or Nelson Mandela, or ...

There are numerous examples where dissent ultimately reflected the true state of affairs. But millions have been persecuted, beaten crippled, burned at the stake, taken to the gulags, driven to the gas chamber, murdered in the name of the State, Church or some -ism.


And that prosecution, burning, transport to gulags, gassing and murder, all of which starts with censorship, book burning, prohibition of 'undermining' art, imposition of standards from the state.

This exploration is far from complete and is done on the basis of legislation, which means that only the surface is bad. Psychological aspects play an important role in the degree of freedom of expression within groups. Also all kinds of moral and ethical issues have not been touched on.

Freedom of expression is contained in many fundamental treaties and our Constitution and underlying laws. In a democracy the legislator has the task of making those laws. It would be better if the Constitution does not give the legislator that option when it comes to self-evident fundamental civil rights.
Thorbecke, the author of our Constitution, has unfortunately failed to state that they should not be curtailed for practical reasons, political expediency, the issues of the day, manipulated hysteria, populism or austerity.
However, we have seen in recent months that it is precisely for these reasons that literally all civil rights such as freedom of religious experience, expression, association, meetings, demonstration, privacy, social security, unlawful deprivation of liberty, education, inviolability of the body and home right have all been violated.
De facto we live in a dictatorship. The Netherlands deserves better.

I wish you wisdom,
Karel Nuks

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