Monday, October 19, 2009

Protect Free Speech

Hovering below the media radar screen is an important piece of legislation now being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill is titled The Free Speech Protection Act 2009, and it's extremely important that it be voted out of committee and brought to the Senate floor for a vote by the full Senate. Bill Dembski at Uncommon Descent explains why:

Paul Williams is a journalist who has written extensively about the threat of terrorism in North America. He is being sued by McMaster University [In Canada] for millions of dollars for alleging in print that they have abetted terrorists and allowed radioactive materials to be stolen. How could he be tried in a Canadian court given that he broke no U.S. law and did everything that McMaster University is upset about on U.S. soil?

As he explained to me, "Bill, I am being tried in Canada because of free trade agreements, including NAFTA. Such agreements give foreign entities the right to take action against American citizens. I am not the only journalist to suffer this fate. New York Times reporter Joe Sharkey is undergoing a similar plight for offending the 'dignity' of Brazil by criticizing an air-traffic control official. Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of Funding Evil, is being sued in England for criticizing Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire. Many more will suffer a similar fate in the coming years."

For more on this travesty go here.

People like Williams have been essentially stripped of their right to freedom of speech because of a provision in NAFTA that should be rescinded. American citizens should not lose their fundamental freedoms because people in another country don't appreciate the rights that we enjoy. The Free Speech Protection Act would guarantee American citizens would not be subjected to this kind of shameful harrassment which has already cost Williams in legal fees his entire life savings of $500,000.

This is a matter of basic justice upon which Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, should be able to agree. There are no constitutional rights more precious than those enshrined in our first amendment, and we should not suffer any agreement with another country that permits their abridgement.