US, Europeans: Islamic countries want to limit free speech at UN

The United States, Canada and some European countries said Tuesday that Islamic nations are trying to limit freedom of speech at the UN. An amendment, passed by the UN Human Rights Council in its rush to adjourn Friday, directed the body's expert on freedom of expression to report on people who abuse their free speech rights by espousing racial and religious discrimination. The measure, proposed by Egypt and Pakistan, passed 32-0 with the support of Islamic, Arab and African nations. European nations and some other countries abstained. "The resolution adopted attempts to legitimize the criminalization of expression," said Warren W. Tichenor, US ambassador to the UN in Geneva. The document seeks to impose "restrictions on individuals rather than to emphasize the duty and responsibility of governments to guarantee, uphold, promote and protect human rights," he told the council. The measure says the expert should "report instances in which the abuse of the right of freedom of expression constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination."