Americans have more freedom than others

Editorial

Civil libertarians, including us, routinely assail the administration for its restrictions on our liberties in the war on terrorism.

We sometimes overstate our complaints, charging that Bush & Co. have taken so many of our freedoms that we might as well be living in the old Soviet Union.

Then we see a story that reminds us of how free we really are, especially when those reports are from nations most wouldn’t consider especially restrictive.

A recent news report out of Spain noted that a judge had ordered copies of the satirical publication El Jueves confiscated. The magazine’s “crime” was a front-cover cartoon of Crown Prince Felipe and his wife, Princess Letizia, involved in a sexual act.

The cartoon lampoons a government proposal to pay couples for having children, and says that if the royal couple were to have children, it would be the first paying job the prince has had.

According to news service reports, the judge also ordered the magazine to turn over the names of the offending cartoonist because he might be guilty of libeling the monarchy, a crime that carries a possible jail term of two years.

If the U.S. had a similar law, there likely would be more cartoonists and editorial writers in jail than drug dealers.

El Jueves director Albert Monteys Homer complained that the order was “a direct attack on freedom of expression.”

Poking fun at public officials in such a manner is tasteless — some would call it pornographic — but it shouldn’t be a crime.

Laws that forbid publication of such satire have a chilling effect on free expression, especially when cartoons and commentary attack government policies.

Perhaps we don’t have it too bad here in the U.S. after all.