The amoral insensitivity that many in the world, especially at the United Nations, hold when it comes to totalitarianism never surprises me.
The disappointments are too many to be surprised any more:
Cuba sitting on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
A U.N. diplomat calling the American embargo “a major threat” to human rights in Cuba.
The U.N. General Assembly’s annual condemnation of said embargo, without due consideration of how maybe, just maybe, the Cuban dictatorship might be to blame for at least some of the woes on the island.
Consider me numb.
Or so I thought, until I read a report on the United Nations’ latest surrender to the forces of tyranny, in Cuba and elsewhere.
UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — had signed up as a patron of Reporters Without Borders’ Online Free Expression Day on Wednesday. As part of the event, visitors to RSF’s Web site could participate in virtual protests denouncing online and other censorship in 15 countries dubbed as “Internet enemies” — including Cuba.
At the last minute Tuesday night, UNESCO — perhaps remembering that it is part of the United Nations or perhaps remembering its totalitarian-friendly history — withdrew its support for the project.
Reporters Without Borders learned last night that UNESCO has withdrawn its patronage for today’s Online Free Expression Day. We were notified of the decision by the director of its Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Peace Division. Defending the move, UNESCO said it gave its patronage for the “principle of this day” but could not support the various demonstrations organised to mark it.
“We are not fooled,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Several governments on today’s updated list of 15 ‘Internet Enemies’ put direct pressure on the office of the UNESCO director general, and deputy director general Marcio Barbosa caved in. UNESCO’s reputation has not been enhanced by this episode. It has behaved with great cowardice at a time when the governments that got it to stage a U-turn continue to imprison dozens of Internet users.”
The press freedom organisation added: “Unfortunately, it seems we have gone back 20 years, to the time when authoritarian regimes called the shots at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. UNESCO’s grovelling shows the importance of Online Free Expression Day and the need to protest against governments that censor.”
In a statement, UNESCO reiterated what it describes as its previous support for free expression. But the agency cringed at the thought of, as RSF did, actually naming the names of offenders.
It would be of some comfort to dismiss this episode as wimps acting like wimps.
But you can never be so kind, you must never be so numb, when facing off against tyrants, and those who would appease them.