Government by Treaty/Threat to a Free Press and Free Speech

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3053274Government by Treaty — Threat to a Free Press and Free SpeechWilliam H. Fitzpatrick

Article 14 of the Covenant on Human Rights sets forth rights and privileges of speech and the press, and then limits them to a degree heretofore unheard of in free countries.

Similar restrictions are placed upon the right of peaceful assembly in article 15.

Article 14 reads:

"1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

"2. 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, regardlcss of frontiers, either orally, in writing, or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

"3. The right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to certain penalties, liabilities, and restrictions, but these shall be such only as are provided by law and are necessary for the protection of national security, public order, safety, health, or morals, or of the rights, freedoms, or reputations of others."

Articie 15 reads:

"The right to peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary to insure national security, public order, the protection of health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

And as if these limitations and restrictions on these vital rights were not enough, article 2 of the covenant gives signatory nations the privilege of canceling articles 14 and 15 among others "in the case of a state of emergency officially proclaimed by the authorities."

An American Bar Association committee named to study this proposed treaty asks of it:

"Is this not prostituting these fundamental rights to the readily invented emergency declarations of the all-powerful state?"

And says:

"The government could, for example, close down newspapers just as in other emergencies the President has closed down banks."

The Government could also close down universities and radio stations, seize and burn books and pamphlets, and disperse any assembly of citizens gathered together to question such steps.

Are these the "rights" a free people will welcome for themselves?