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Anyone paying close attention to The Daily Pennsylvanian will have noticed a curious inconsistency in its treatment of recent controversies. Last week, as a result of objections by the Muslim Students Association and leaders of Penn Hillel, among others, the DP resolved not to print further anti-Muslim advertisements from the David Horowitz Freedom Center. In taking this step, the paper recognized — admirably, in my opinion — that the principle of free speech does sometimes come into conflict with other high-order values like tolerance, civility and humanity. Yet this decision sits uncomfortably with the editorial board’s knee-jerk rejection two weeks earlier of the faculty and student-led protest against Narendra Modi’s dubious human rights record and disturbing brand of Hindu supremacist politics. In the DP’s view, Mr. Modi’s apparently unassailable “right” to use the Wharton India Economic Forum as yet another platform from which to broadcast his already hegemonic views on development and advance his political ambitions trumps the concerns of those who languish as second-class citizens under the dangerous and divisive political order Mr. Modi has helped create. Horowitz disseminates hate and is marginalized; Modi institutionalizes it and is defended.

I would like to see the DP adopt a more thoughtful, less schizophrenic approach to free speech issues that recognizes the important role newspapers play in setting the parameters for a civil exchange of ideas in their communities. Until its latest reversal on Horowitz, the DP appeared loath to question the appropriateness of any outside submission that reached its inbox, however riddled with slanderous accusations or factual inaccuracies. A different approach would not require editors to censor offensive content, but it would require them to demand a certain evidentiary standard from their advertisers and op-ed contributors. While there have been some measured responses to the Modi controversy on both sides, other opinion pieces recently published in the DP have descended into zany, unsubstantiated conspiracy theorizing with decidedly Islamophobic undertones. I encourage the DP to engage in the type of fact-checking and due diligence that are de rigueur for the opinion pages of our country’s leading newspapers. In this way, an unbridled principle of free speech can be intelligently balanced against the other values that make our university a world-class center of learning.

Matt Berkman is a doctoral student in comparative politics at Penn.

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