MEPs will next week vote on a “ban on all forms of pornography” including censorship of the internet in a bid to “eliminate gender stereotypes” that demean women.
By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels
10:09AM GMT 08 Mar 2013
Controversy has erupted over next Tuesday’s European Parliament resolution “on eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU”, meant to mark international women’s day, after libertarian Swedish MEPs from the Pirate Party spotted the call for a ban in the small print.
While not legally binding, the vote could be the first step towards European legislation as the EU’s assembly increasingly flexes its political muscle within Europe’s institutions.
The proposal “calls on the EU and its member states to take concrete action on discrimination against women in advertising… [with] a ban on all forms of pornography in the media”.
Kartika Liotard, a Dutch left-wing feminist MEP, is seeking “statutory measures to prevent any form of pornography in the media and in advertising and for a ban on advertising for pornographic products and sex tourism”, including measures in the “digital field”.
The MEPs are also demanding the establishment of state sex censors with “a mandate to impose effective sanctions on companies and individuals promoting the sexualisation of girls”.
Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party which campaigns for internet freedom and has MEPs, warned that there is “a clear majority in favour of this report, much because of its title and a belief that there’s nothing odd about it”.
“This horrendous attack on our fundamental freedoms of speech and expression needs action now,” he wrote on his blog.
“This isn’t the final vote in the legislative process; rather, it’s the first vote in the legislative sausage machine (‘what goes in, must come out’). Still, it is important to send a very clear message that this is unacceptable at first opportunity, or it will become a legislative proposal which is much harder to fight.”
The parliament has added insult to injury for the civil liberties campaigners by blocking a flood of protest emails that was sent to MEPs as news of the ban vote emerged.
“This is an absolute disgrace, in my opinion. A parliament that views input from citizens on a current issue as spam, has very little democratic legitimacy in my opinion,” said Christian Engstrom, a Pirate Party MEP.
A parliament offcial denied that protest emails had been deliberately blocked.
“In addition to its normal spam filters, the European Parliament has an alert system in case of an excessive influx of emails affecting the proper functioning of the email-system,” he said.
“This system was triggered because of an enormous influx of mails. The measures are automatic and technical and independent of any content or sender.”
A recent EU report urged tight press regulation and demanded that Brussels officials are given control of national media supervisors with new powers to enforce fines or the sacking of journalists.
The “high-level” recommendations, welcomed by the European Commission, backed the creation of EU supervised media regulators with “real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status.”
Iceland is currently debating radical proposals that would make it the first Western democracy to attempt censorship of the internet by blocking online pornography.
The Icelandic government is considering introducing internet filters, such as those used to block China off form the worldwide web, in order to stop people downloading or viewing pornography on the internet.
The unprecedented censorship is justified by fears about damaging effects of the internet on children and women.