The Future of Free Speech
Aryeh Neier, human rights lawyer and president emeritus of the Open Society Foundations speaks about the future of free speech.
Aryeh Neier speaks of the value of free speech (2:00min) including its role in flagging up problems, citing the Great Famine in China as an example (4:15 min). The right to speak may be restricted in specific circumstances given the situation (7:20 min). Hate speech is one example of speech that is not protected under law in the EU (8:45 min). Blasphemy is quite different from hate speech. While restrictions against hate speech can be legitimate, violence as a result of blasphemy is not. Violence and laws against blasphemy have been on the rise in the last 25 years (14:00min).
The advent of the internet, like that of all other new media, has been an important factor in the development of free speech (17:40 min). Those who advocate restrictions on the content of speech face a globalised world sharing content beyond borders. A lot of content would have to be suppressed if offensiveness were a criteria for what should be oppressed on the internet (18:30 min). Others focus on service providers to restrict the dissemination of content, which, however, are often out of reach of local law (20:00 min). This requires service providers to become censors in order to protect their own safety. Twitter is a recent example of a service provider that has started to respond to state laws to restrict the dissemination of content locally (21:30min).
Speech can play a significant role in atrocities. The Uganda Radio station inciting genocide of Hutus against Tutsies is such an example (22:40 min). The role of the broadcast is determined by the context in which it took place. In a diverse media environment the messages serving the Ugandan government to incite hate against the Tutsies may not have had the same impact (13:00 min).
In the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks Neier feared a crack down on the expression of views sympathic to these terrorists. This has not happened in the US (26:50 min). There have, however, been infringements on other rights and freedoms (28:20 min). A hard time lies ahead of those defending freedom of speech.
We - all human beings - must be free and able to express ourselves, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, regardless of frontiers.
Timothy Garton Ash
A personal introduction
This principle is first not just in order but in importance. It is the basic principle. The other nine principles say more about what this one means, how it can be realised and where the limits to free expression should lie. If you fundamentally disagree with this basic principle, please say why on our discussion pages.
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