| The U.N. Human Rights Council approved a U.S.-backed resolution Friday deploring attacks on religions while insisting that freedom of expression remains a basic right.|
The inaugural resolution sponsored by the U.S. since it joined the council in June broke a long-running deadlock between Western and Islamic countries in the wake of the publication of cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
The resolution has no effect in law but provides Muslim countries with moral ammunition the next time they feel central tenets of Islam are being ridiculed by Western politicians or media through "negative racial and religious stereotyping."
American diplomats say the measure — co-sponsored by Egypt — is part of the Obama administration's effort to reach out to Muslim countries.
"The exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression is one of the essential foundations of a democratic society," the resolution states, urging countries to protect free speech by lifting legal restrictions, ensuring the safety of journalists, promoting literacy and preventing media concentration.
....Others warned that the resolution appears to protect religions rather than believers and encourages journalists to abide by ill-defined codes of conduct.
"Unfortunately, the text talks about negative racial and religious stereotyping, something which most free expression and human rights organizations will oppose," said Agnes Callamard, executive director of London-based group Article 19.
"The equality of all ideas and convictions before the law and the right to debate them freely is the keystone of democracy," she said.
How much did Obama and the state department give in to Islamic members?
|The Obama administration decided that a revamped freedom of expression resolution, extracted from Canadian hands, would be an ideal emblem for its new engagement policy. So it cosponsored a resolution on the subject with none other than Egypt--a country characterized by an absence of freedom of expression.|
Privately, other Western governments were taken aback and watched the weeks of negotiations with dismay as it became clear that American negotiators wanted consensus at all costs. In introducing the resolution on Thursday, October 1--adopted by consensus the following day--the ranking U.S. diplomat, Chargé d'Affaires Douglas Griffiths, crowed:
"The United States is very pleased to present this joint project with Egypt. This initiative is a manifestation of the Obama administration's commitment to multilateral engagement throughout the United Nations and of our genuine desire to seek and build cooperation based upon mutual interest and mutual respect in pursuit of our shared common principles of tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."
His Egyptian counterpart, Ambassador Hisham Badr, was equally pleased--for all the wrong reasons. He praised the development by telling the Council that "freedom of expression . . . has been sometimes misused," insisting on limits consistent with the "true nature of this right" and demanding that the "the media must . . . conduct . . . itself in a professional and ethical manner."