“The film cannot be considered part of freedom of expression because it spreads hatred and hurts the feelings of Muslims. The film faked historical facts and it has nothing to do with free expression,” Yahya Shuqeir, an analyst and expert on media laws in Jordan, told The Jordan Times on Sunday.
“The provocative film violates Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Shuqeir.
Article 19 of the ICCPR stipulates: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
“The exercise of the rights provided for in Paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) for respect of the rights or reputations of others [and] (b) for the protection of national security or of public order or of public health or morals.”
Article 20 states: “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”
“The director of the film misused the article on freedom of expression,” said Shuqeir.
Paragraph 2 of Article 29 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: “In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.”
“According to these international laws, no one should misuse the right for freedom of expression to harm others or cause hatred towards others. This film did not respect these laws and sought to insult Muslims,” said Shuqeir.
The US, where the controversial film was produced, ratified the ICCPR in 1992, but with several reservations, the first of which was “that Article 20 does not authorise or require legislation or other action by the United States that would restrict the right of free speech and association protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States”.
The US also does not consider the provisions of Articles 1 through 27 self-executing, meaning that these provisions cannot be invoked in a US court and do not form part of the country’s domestic law.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not a treaty and does not in fact have the force of international law, although it has formed the basis for treaties such as the ICCPR.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a California man believed to have been involved in producing the film, was taken in for questioning on Saturday about possible probation violations after his release last year from prison, where he was serving time for bank fraud, Reuters reported.
US officials have said authorities were not investigating the film itself, and that even if it was inflammatory or led to violence, simply producing it cannot be considered a crime in the US, which has strong free speech laws, Reuters added.
Fahed Kheitan, a media expert and columnist at Al Ghad daily, said in remarks to The Jordan Times over the phone on Sunday that the film violated all norms of freedom of expression.
“No matter how sacred freedom of expression is, it should not under any condition be misused to tarnish the image of sacred beliefs and religions of all nations worldwide,” said Kheitan.
“The world is diverse and not all nations are alike in terms of their culture and the most important principle of co-existence in the world is to respect the other and to respect what they consider sacred,” he added.
He called for dialogue to agree on certain limits to free expression, which he said should not be misused to “harm the beliefs of certain groups”.
“There is a need to develop the principle of co-existence and the respect of others to prevent any attempts to harm each other and to prevent any consequent violent reaction,” said Kheitan.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the Jordan Press Association condemned the film as provocative to the feelings of Muslims, calling for prosecuting those behind it.
The association stressed that the film is in violation of all principles of freedom of expression.