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The Council for the Protection of Freedom of Speech of the Assembly for the Republic: Western Europe is sliding into totalitarianism

By: Zbor za republiko

The Council for the Protection of Freedom of Speech expresses deep concern over the events in Brussels, where local authorities sent the police to prevent entry and exit to the venue of a conservative conference (April 16th and 17th).

Representatives of the European right gathered in Brussels for the 2nd Annual Conference of National Conservatism (NatCon). Emir Kir, the mayor of the Saint-Josse district, where the conference venue, Claridge, was located, initially pressured the organisers to cancel the event, claiming to reject “any events with fascist tendencies in his municipality”. Failing to do so, he issued an order banning the event and ensuring public safety. Police arrived at the venue, initially giving conference participants 15 minutes to vacate the hall. Ultimately, they blocked the entrance and prevented entry and exit to the venue.

According to media reports, public order and peace were not disturbed. The conference proceeded and is still ongoing peacefully. The threat of potential disturbance of public order and peace came from the Antifascist Coalition, which announced their arrival for the late afternoon of the first day of the conference. This was also used as an excuse for Mayor Kir to send the police to the conference participants, but there is a lingering feeling that the decree was issued for political and ideological reasons.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental and universal human right. Authorities in countries that are at least nominally democratic and free must unconditionally protect this freedom. If authorities have indeed received a threat from the Antifascist Coalition to cause chaos at the venue, it is the duty of the authorities to protect conference participants, rather than bowing to those who threaten unrest because of the conference. Only in this way is freedom of expression defended.

Despite the swift action of the Belgian judicial system (also thanks to the Belgian Prime Minister, Mr. Alexander De Croo, who described Mayor Kir’s actions as unacceptable) and the late-night extraordinary ruling to overturn the mayor’s decree to protect freedom of speech and assembly, the Council for the Protection of Freedom of Speech expresses deep concern about the event, which unfortunately is not isolated in Western Europe, which Slovenia once considered a model of democracy and freedom. It seems that anyone advocating for national sovereignty today is labelled as a fascist or extremist right-winger and subjected to police treatment.

At the same time, we express full support and sympathy to the participants of the NatCon conference for their upright stance and steadfastness in not leaving the venue (which is privately owned) and resisting Mayor Kir’s arbitrary and autocratic attempt to prevent the conference from taking place.

For the Council for the Protection of Freedom of Speech:

Jože Biščak, President

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