I hoped I wouldn’t have to write anything else about Ukraine’s recent anti-free speech, historical revisionist laws, but recently a reader raised a point that is simply too crucial to ignore. Just when I thought I was out…They pull me back in!
Do any of my readers remember the biggest global discussion about free speech this year? You should, because it was one where people died. I am of course referring to the Charlie Hebdo massacre. I won’t blame you if it slipped your mind, since it slipped mine too. The war in Ukraine went on even after the signing of Minsk II, wildfires are raging in Siberia (Thanks, Obama!), and in the US of course, unarmed black people continue to be gunned down by police one after another. As for me, I wrote an article about some people’s reactions to the massacre, but the most involvement I ever had was conducting interviews with Russians expressing their condolences in front of the French Embassy in Moscow. In short, we all moved on.
In case the reader forgot, on 11 January 2015, a number of world leaders gathered in Paris for a unity march in support of free speech. Naturally, their photo-op drew a lot of justified criticism about hypocrisy, given some of the leaders who were there or the regimes their governments supported. For example, Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was in attendance, and the Turkish government is not known for its stoic defense of freedom of speech or the press, to say the least. In fact the motto of the Turkish Republic is “Sik gazeteciler! Ermeni NE?” (English: Fuck journalists! Armenian WHAT?). Turkish PM Davutoğlu was not only in attendance at the march, but he was also in the front rank of the big photo-op shot. He’s the man with glasses, fourth from the right, do you se- Hey wait a minute! Who’s that man on Davutoğlu’s left?
Well I’ll be damned! That’s Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, standing up for free speech in Paris. That was why he was there, right? So how about it, President Poroshenko? After you stood up for free speech in France, will you proceed to strangle it in your own country? I’d like to remind the Ukrainian president and the reader that one of the reasons Charlie Hebdo was allowed to criticize religion and religious leaders so mercilessly is due to the legacy of France’s ancient anti-blasphemy law, which was abolished in 1791 after the French Revolution. In Ukraine there are those who want to create a new religious dogma, which some among them call a “national idea,” and the laws they support are essentially creating a new crime of blasphemy.
As I said before, it is up to Poroshenko to show whether or not he stands for so-called Western values, or whether he and the rest of the Ukrainian government are still products of the same basic mentality that dominates Moscow. These laws will not strengthen Ukraine; all previous attempts to enforce this revisionist, right-wing “national idea” on Ukraine have done nothing but create division, as well as a pool of willing collaborators for Moscow’s schemes in the region. Ukraine needs freedom and unity, not contrived dogma enforced by law.
So there it is, the last thing I’ll write on the topic of Ukraine’s anti-free speech laws. I hope. Should Poroshenko display massive hypocrisy and approve this law, I suppose I’ll have to organize the first international “Everybody Draw Bandera Day.” Stay tuned.