Speak Out

31 07 2007

Cath Elliot in The Guardian


Freedom of speech is a commendable notion, but is it time to redefine it in terms of our changing political morality?

If nothing else, the recent trial and subsequent jailing of the Danish cartoon protesters has shown that free speech no longer exists in the UK, if indeed it ever truly existed at all. But is this really such a bad thing? Is the end of free speech the Orwellian nightmare so many commentators have predicted?

The right to freedom of expression is laid out in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as adopted in 1948 by the UN:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Perhaps we should now add: “Any media, that is, except placards and the human voice.”

Of course Mizanur Rahman, Umran Javed and Abdul Muhid are an extreme example, and some would argue I am stretching the point to use them in this context; their convictions, after all, were not merely for expressing opinions, but for inciting racial hatred and soliciting murder. But the question has to be asked: if we’re prepared to make exceptions in these instances, where, if anywhere, do we draw the line?

More here

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