Freedom of Speech in Germany
Posted by rantingkraut on March 23, 2006
If there is one case of freedom of speech restrictions which is most likely to be widely supported, it is Germany’s decision to ban Nazi insignia like the swastika after the end of World War II. All who think that this restriction is safely confined to those who deserve it should consider the following case:
A German student who wore a sticker with a crossed out swastika at an anti-fascist rally was fined for displaying Nazi insignia. This student duly appealed in order to prove his innocence. Yet, the first appeal was rejected on the grounds that a passing Japanese tourist could have mistaken the symbol for neo-Nazi propaganda.
Only on the second appeal did the judge have sufficient confidence in the brainpower of Japanese travellers and overturned the fine.
In spite of the happy ending, the basic message should be clear: once you start prescribing which opinions can be legally voiced, political debate is subject to censorship and it is far from clear where censorship will stop.
(Source: Antonia Götsch “Prozess grotesk: Vor Gericht wegen eines Anti-Nazi-Symbols” Der Spiegel-Online 23 March 2006)
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