Before the Internet age, freedom of speech and expression occurred within the constitutional and legal boundaries of a single nation. Today, however, images and opinions reach audiences around the world at the click of a mouse. Reactions and repercussions are no longer confined to the country where the ideas originated. What are the implications for democracies which seek to uphold freedom of expression and freedom of religion in an age in which economic, political, cultural and religious divisions have become more pronounced – and even strident? On April 11, the Brookings Institution hosted Bert Koenders, minister for development cooperation in the Netherlands, for an address on the freedom of expression and religion and their link with democratization in the Middle East and beyond.
Bert Koenders was appointed minister on February 22, 2007. Prior to this, Koenders held numerous positions, including: member of the governing council of the Society for International Development; president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly; and chairman of the board of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank.
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, national director of the Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances of the Islamic Society of North America, joined Minister Koenders in this discussion. Senior Fellow and Center on the United States and Europe Director Daniel Benjamin provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion. After the program, Minister Koender took audience questions.