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Keane on South Park, Islam and Hate Speech: A European Perspective

April 26, 2010 9 comments

We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Dr. David Keane. Dr. David Keane is a Lecturer in Law, Middlesex University, United Kingdom.  David researches and publishes on issues relating to human rights, minority rights, freedom of expression, racial discrimination and regional human rights systems. A full list of David’s publications can be accessed here. This is David’s response to my previous post South Park: ‘Religious Defamation’, Freedom of Expression & Human Rights

I hadn’t seen South Park in many years, but coincidentally happened to be watching last Wednesday when Episode 200 was shown. I realised that the portrayal of Mohammad dressed in a bear costume (although it turns out not to be him – see here) was going to re-ignite questions of religious defamation and freedom of expression, and wasn’t surprised to see the Guardian, for example, run with the story for the past three days. Liam Thornton’s interesting analysis on this blog has firmly supported freedom of expression and underlines South Park’s irreverent approach as an ‘equal opportunities offender’. As a human rights academic and a firm believer in freedom of expression, and indeed cartoons as an art form, I am always surprised to find myself often arguing against the cartoonists who are behind the series of recent controversies. I sometimes wonder whether it may be related to the fact that every time I read an article about the Danish cartoons or other such incidents, I detect a certain triumph in the portrayal of Muslims as intolerant of freedom of expression. They’re only cartoons! seems to be the central message.

Liam Thornton’s piece makes reference to an article of mine, and I’d like to go back to the central idea I had in writing it in order to explain my position. In much of the analysis on the ‘Danish cartoons’ controversy, there was an implicit understanding that cartoons are for children. How could people be offended by something which is essentially harmless juvenile fun? Yet the history of cartoon satire tells otherwise; cartooning has had a long political history, according to one study beginning as far back as 1360 BC with an unflattering portrait of King Tutankhamen’s father. This noble tradition of political dissidence, or the cartoon as social protest, spread from 17th century Holland, and morphed into the editorial cartoon we have today. Read more…

South Park: ‘Religious Defamation’, Freedom of Expression & Human Rights

April 24, 2010 6 comments

*Spoiler AlertThis post contains some  spoilers to the South Park episodes “200″ and “201″. In Ireland and the United Kingdom South Park airs on Comedy Central. Comedy Central has not aired the episode “201″ in Ireland or the United Kingdom. The episode “201″ has been uploaded (illegally) onto a variety of sites.

HRiI has discussed extensively  the issue of criminal blasphemy in Ireland, over the last few months, see, here, here, here, here, here and here. Contributors to these posts noted Ireland’s hypocrisy on the issue, and the threats which this legislation posed to freedom of expression. The popular Comedy Central show South Park celebrated its 200th episode recently. In typical South Park fashion it dealt with a number of pressing (and not so pressing) issues. A central focus of both the 200th and 201st episodes (as it was in the episodes Cartoon Wars: Part I and Cartoon Wars: Part II) revolved around the religious prophet Muhammad and the controversy regarding depicting him in human form. A number of groups who did not want to be ridiculed (celebrities and persons with red hair),  sought Muhammad’s ‘goo’ which they believed would  make them impervious from public ridicule or criticism.  In the South Park Universe, Muhammad is part of the Super Best Friends, a group of religious figures (plus one) who help those in need. The group consists of Jesus Christ, Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, Joseph Smith, Lao Tzu, Moses and a character called Sea Man. The Super Best Friends were introduced to the South Park Universe in 2001, and as the picture to the side shows, there was no controversy for depicting an image of Muhammad (to the right of Jesus). However, with the publication of the Danish Cartoons and the resulting violence (see here, here, here, and to view the controversial cartoons see here), Comedy Central refused to air the image of Muhammad. It had initially been thought that the 200th episode depicted Muhammad dressed up in an oversize bear outfit, harking park to the Sudanese controversy. However, in the 201st episode it was revealed that Muhammad was not in the bear costume. For the whole of the 201st episode, images of Muhammad were censored and Muhammad’s name was bleeped from the dialogue. In addition, large portions of the show were bleeped when a number of the characters tried to suggest what could be learned from the problems the characters faced in the episode. The creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, had their addresses published on extremist website forums and suggested they would face a similar fate to Theo van Gogh (see here, here, here, here and here).

Is such gratuitous mocking of religion permitted under human rights law? Do human rights protections extend to those who wish not to have deeply held beliefs ridiculed in a crass (or any other) manner? Read more…

Landy on the Children’s Rights Referendum

April 14, 2010 Leave a comment

In response to an article written by Mr. John Waters, (Irish Times, Feb. 19 2010), guest contributor Fergal Landy takes a different view. It is of utmost importance that Mr. Waters article is read before Fergal’s contribution. This article can be accessed here.

John Waters, opinion and analysis 19.02.10, has outlined his view on the proposed referendum on children’s rights.  Mr. Waters is entitled to his view and the debate in relation to the proposed changes should be carried out in an open and inclusive manner, my declared interest is that I am a qualified social worker, currently working as a researcher with children and families and I am a citizen with a genuine concern for the well being of children and young people.  I am not wearing, and never have worn, a cloak of secrecy, I have merely respected the confidentiality of the people I have worked with.  It is not with Mr. Waters’ opinion that I am concerned but with his deeply flawed analysis.  Mr. Waters’ analysis contains some accurate points, designed to draw in the reader predisposed to reasonable argument and to provide a credible, even authoritative, foundation.  As is regularly the case with Mr. Water’s these accurate points are then carefully knitted with numerous erroneous points often coupled with vital omissions to form a completely inaccurate but seemingly credible and authoritative analysis. Read more…

UK General Election: Liberal Democrat Manifesto and Human Rights

April 14, 2010 1 comment

The Liberal Democrats have published their General Election Manifesto 2010. Cian has noted the main human rights commitments in the Conservative Party’s Manifesto here, and I have previously highlighted the main human rights commitments given in the Labour Party’s 2010 Manifesto. This is a brief overview of the main human rights commitments given in this Manifesto, however is important since it may be that the Lib Dems may be the King-makers in the new British Parliament  (see here, here and here).

The Liberal Democrats have made the following commitments: Read more…

UK General Election: Labour Party Manifesto and Human Rights

April 13, 2010 6 comments

The British Labour Party yesterday published its manifesto for Election 2010. There are a number of key commitments in relation to human rights which should be highlighted (and may put them at odds with the Conservative Party).

  • Demanding rights and responsibilities for all. While the Manifesto does not outline in any detail key human rights, responsibilities of all are outlined as: the obligation to work when you can; not to abuse your neighbour or neighbourhood; for newcomers to show respect for Britain and to pay a fair share of taxes;
  • Committment to maintaining the new Equality Act 2010;
  • Continue to support the Human Rights Act 1998, as a means of “bringing rights home“;
  • Human rights as a key component to foreign policy;
  • Reorientating of foreign aid issues, as key human rights issues. The Manifesto states: ” Access to health, education, food, water and sanitation are basic human rights”;
  • Building a modern welfare state, where there is an obligation to work where people are  in position to do so, and assisting those  out of employment into employment. The Labour Pary also committs to seeking to end child poverty by 2020 (see also Child Poverty Act 2010), through increasing opportunities for parents to work.
  • Commitments to older people, through improving quality of life, allowing older people who want to, to work, ensuring adequate pension provision.
  • Providing greater level of choice to individuals health rights, while also expecting greater responsibilities of those using the National Health Service.
  • Strengthening the immigration system so that it  is firm, but fair;
  • Committed to a free vote  in Parliament on whether the franchise should be extended to those 16 years and older;
  • Introduce an Alternative Vote system (to replace the current first past the post); Read more…

UNHCR Ireland: Internships

UNHCR Ireland is currently advertising two internships with its External Relations and Protection units. Click here for more details about both internships and details on how to apply. Please note the deadline for applications for the External Relations internship is 23rd April 2010. The deadline for applications for the Protection internship is 14th May 2010.

PILA Seminar: Using International Law: The European Social Charter and UN Treaty Bodies

Venue: Distillery Building, Church St, Dublin 7

Date: Friday, 7 May 2010             Time: 4 – 5.30 PM

 

Colm O’Cinneide is currently vice-president of the European Committee on Social Rights, which monitors state compliance with the European Social Charter. He is a reader in human rights law at University College London and a member of the Irish Bar. He was a member of the UK Task Force on the establishment of the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

Kate Fox is an Irish solicitor who has worked in the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for over 10 years. She has provided substantive legal support to the independent monitoring bodies of the 4 treaties dealing with individual complaints against State parties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention against Torture, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

As places are limited, please confirm attendance to Jo Kenny t: (01) 8728048 or e: jo.kenny@flac.ie

 

CPD points are available for this event. PILA is a project of FLAC. Its objective is to promote and facilitate the use of law in the public interest for the advancement and protection of human rights and for the benefit of marginalised and disadvantaged people.

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