Further assault of the freedom of expression (and not just by 'them')Many westerners watched perplexed as the Prophet Mohammed cartoon flap exploded into World War III. Many did not understand why this was such a big deal. Angry Muslims needed to understand that freedom of expression is a core value in most western countries, they said to themselves. When two Algerian editors were arrested for publishing the controversial cariciatures, many in the west were outraged. But at least something like that could never happen in a western Christian country.
Or so they thought.
The Russian regime has ordered the country's media organizations to not to publish anything that could be construed as offensive to any religion or risk losing their licences.
"Measures envisaged in Russian legislation, including the cancellation of registration, will be taken if any Russian media issue materials insulting religious feelings," said a spokesman for Russia's Federal Service for the Oversight of Legislation in Mass Communications and the Protection of Cultural Heritage.
Bizarrely, prosecutors are investigating a Volgograd newspaper which published a cartoon that depicted Jesus Christ, the prophet Muhammad, Moses and Buddha watching TV pictures of two groups of people preparing for a fight. The caption under read: "We did not teach them to do that..."
The prosecutor offered this incoherent explanation: "Given the realities of the complicated inter-religious situation in the world and Russia, publications of such cartoons may provoke an inappropriate reaction from believers, may give extremist forces cause to incite religious discord and have very negative consequences."
"Russia may be a Christian country but it's a dictatorship. Countries that follow western norms would never do such a thing," one might respond.
The British House of Commons recently approved a controversial bill that would ban the 'glorification' of terrorism.
But as with any such autocratic proposals, its most insidious quality is vagueness: neither 'terrorism' or 'glorification' are defined.
This is particularly shocking when you consider that Britain already has laws against both incitement to murder and incitement to terrorism.
The bill now goes to the upper House of Lords, which has previously revolted against some of the more extreme provisions of the bill.