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.
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