02 October 2008

Freedom of Speech Under Attack?

I am an advocate of free speech. I have never considered free speech to be an absolute right but rather one that is modified by defamation laws and protected by an ability to prove what one says.

However, it seems that this freedom of speech is slowly but surely being whittled away as vilification and hatred laws are introduced to the regulatory framework and discourse is restricted to agreed truths that cannot be questioned.

This is a direct attack on the freedom of speech! The cartoon is a statement about the Canadian Human Rights Commission system and it can be found here at the FreedomSite Blog.

I have always wondered for example why it was wrong to publish a cartoon of Muhammad, or more specifically how that was any more wrong than say publishing a cartoon of Jesus or Buddha or some other religious icon?

I have always wondered why there cannot be academic debate say on the holocaust or why saying that the numbers of Jews killed under the "Final Solution" might not have been six million.
To my mind there is no doubting that Nazi Germany as led by Adolf Hitler adopted a policy known as the "final solution" and that the purpose was to rid Europe of the Jews.

Yet, I do not understand the fear of having to defend this position. If someone questions whether the gas chambers were capable of poisoning the number of people claimed, then they are labeled anti-Semitic and threatened with jail. Where is the free speech in that and who is protecting the rights of these people to exercise their right to free speech?

Or is it the case that when you want to talk about Muhammad or Israel or other things you can only do so within the "agreed" discourse and to stray from this very limited path makes you a criminal?

Whatever happened to the idea that I might disagree with what you say but I will fight for your right to say it.

How can we ever live in a truly functioning democracy if the narrative and the discourse is dictated by the few?
Many vilification and hatred and denial laws are used purely for the purpose of stifling legitimate debate. And, this is a sad development and sets back our ability to live in peace and harmony with each other as these laws foster the ill-will and hatred that they seek to overcome.

It is time that we started behaving like adults rather than allowing our politicians to regulate us like we are children.

The freedom of speech must be a freedom to disagree, a freedom to challenge, and a freedom to question. Anything less makes a mockery of the freedom of speech as a legitimate human right.

Thus endeth the sermon!


Brett said...


the converted said...

May I enquire if you and yours are celebrating lebaran?? if so, have you found it easy to enjoy??

jaka said...

Maybe because freedom to challenge potentially causes imbalance in society?

In case of Indonesia, under the eastern philosophies (like you are experiencing now), practicing freedom of challenge openly will make people to disagree with you. Failing to keep "the balance" will be used by your opponents to attack you. Look on how people have different opinions on FPI and PKS, although both have similar objectives. The latter tends to "keep the balance".

Rob Baiton said...


Amen is a nice touch to end on :D


You may enquire. No, we are HIndu.


Perhaps it causes imbalance. However, this would also work as an argument for not upsetting the status quo. So, in order to maintain balance should we labor under a system that does not respect what many consider to be a basic human right?

I was not looking at this as an Eastern philosophy question but rather in terms of vilification, hatred, denial laws that are being enacted in many Western countries.

reader said...

eh bukankan di indonesia freedom of speech sudah dibatasi dengan putusan MK terkait dengan penghinaan, saya sendiri enggak yakin bahwa Pasal 156 a KUHP bila diujikan akan dinyatakan inkonstitusional oleh MK

Rob Baiton said...


Yes, freedom of speech is restricted in Indonesia. It is restricted in most places. The idea that the freedom of speech is absolute is simply not true.

However, I guess there is only one way to find out on the constitutionality of provisions in laws and that is to test them.

reader said...

loh mungkin Pak Rob ketinggalan berita, tapi MK sudah menyatakan putusan bahwa ketentuan penghinaan dalam KUHP itu konstitusional dalam perkara Risang Bima Wijaya dan Bersihar Lubis

btw this is me Anggara

Rob Baiton said...

Reader (AKA Anggara)...

In the context of insult this is true. Hence, there are some restrictions on the freedom of speech in Indonesia, right?

I guess my point was more general in terms of testing the constitutionality of provisions. Once a provision has been tested it is generally the case that the same provision cannot be reviewed again.

However, a different case and somewhat different substantive matter might allow the provision to be looked at again. Then again it might not too.

The fact that the MK has held as it has emphasizes that the freedom of speech is not absolute and that is my ultimate point on this one.

Whether or not the restrictions are reasonable is a different argument for my mind.