Exactly one year ago I was in Israel, attending the „Boundaries of Free Speech“ conference and enyoing the warm weather in Jaffa. In the meantime, the organizers have gathered essays from the participants and enhanced them with additional information to produce a website which can be a starting point for further discussions. Below you find the press statement; if you are interested in my essay on „Online Mainstream Media and Weblogs: Competing or Complementary Publics„, just follow the link.
Anti-Muslim cartoons are back in Danish and other European newspapers. This time in a sign of solidarity with one of the cartoonists ridiculing the Islam, who became a victim of a planned terror attack. Two years ago the newspaper Jyllands Posten argued against violent Muslim protests with freedom of speech. Today, these newspapers reiterate what had been a flaw in the first place: Reducing the other to a few qualities is racism. Who in their mind today would defend the Anti-Semitic cartoons published in Nazi Germany with the freedom of press?
On the Website “Boundaries of Free Speech”, www.freespeechconference.org, that we are launching today, the “Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoon Contest 2006” presented by Amitai Sandy elaborates this aspect. His initiative asked Jewish cartoonists from all over the world to ridicule their own people. The result was laughter, not hate. Sandy quotes a comment by an American blogger of Iranian origin: “I heard the Jews are planning to take over the world, I hope it happens soon”. Yet, stereotyping is just one boundary of free speech reflecting the level of communication between the “West” and the “Muslim world”.
Today, one year ago, the 14th of February, a discussion about stereotypes, objectivity or representation in Western media started at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute with the conference “Boundaries of Free Speech. German-Israeli journalism and Growing Rifts between the “West” and the “Muslim world”. Now the organizers, sponsored by Dr.-Alexander-Rita-Besser-Stiftung, Heinrich Böll-Stiftung and Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, publish the contributions of this unique gathering of media experts, journalists and bloggers from Germany, Israel and Palestine. The Website www.freespeechconference .org wants to continue the discussion and offers its platform.
Look, read and speak freely about what you see here. Fourteen professionals from mainstream media like the German newspapers Der Spiegel, Frankfurter Rundschau or the Israeli newspaper Haaretz discuss their experiences with well-known bloggers, like Don Alphonso from Germany ( http://rebellmarkt.blogger.de) or the “Orthodox Anarchist” Israel/USA (http://orthodoxanarchist.com ). As this website itself is an alternative media, it likewise seeks interaction with mainstream media. How can groups not involved in the “power of speech” change or alternate predominant discourses? How can journalists with at least some “power of speech” sense and influence the shaping of symbols within mainstream media, which ultimately shape reality?
We want to develop the nascent stages of this discussion. Therefore we warmly invite every one to comment on the lectures presented. This website should be a source of information and inspiration for all those who try to attack contemporary freedom of speech for its drawbacks.