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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: freedom of speech, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 13 of 13
1. The Defamation Act 2013: reflections and reforms

How can a society balance both the freedom of expression, including the freedom of the press, with the individual’s right to reputation? Defamation law seeks to address precisely this delicate equation. Especially in the age of the internet, where it is possible to publish immediately and anonymously, these concerns have become even more pressing and complex. The Defamation Act 2013 has introduced some of the most important changes to this area in recent times, including the defence for honest opinion, new internet-specific reforms protecting internet publishers, and attempts to curb an industry of “libel tourism” in the U.K.

Dr Matthew Collins SC introduces the Defamation Act 2013, and discusses the most important reforms and their subsequent implications.

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Dr Matthew Collins SC is a barrister based in Melbourne, Australia. He is a Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne, a door tenant at One Brick Court chambers in London, and the author of Collins On Defamation.

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2. Horace and free speech in the age of WikiLeaks

By Robert Cowan


“Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.” So wrote Salman Rushdie and he should know. Certainly free speech is routinely held up, often unreflectively, as an unambiguous, uncontroversial good – one of Franklin Roosevelt’s four freedoms, the right for which Voltaire would famously die, even if he disapproved of what was being said. In the age of WikiLeaks, the freedom to disseminate information and its corollary, the freedom to know what those in power have said or done in secret, have found ever more vigorous proponents, but also those who ask whether it has its limits.

It has always been problematic whether freedom of speech should be extended to those whose speech is considered abhorrent and who might even argue against others’ freedom of speech. Voltaire may offer to lay down his life and Chomsky may assert that “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all”, but the very power of speech which makes its freedom so desirable can also render it an instrument of discrimination, violence, and oppression. It is no coincidence that it is often groups such as the BNP or Qur’an-burning pastors who hold up free speech as a banner under which they can use that freedom to demand the curtailment of others’ freedoms. Even more directly, the dangers of verbal incitement to hatred – be it on racial, sexual, or other grounds – are increasingly recognized in both the statute books and the public consciousness.

WikiLeaks has highlighted the other potential danger of free speech, that, in the famous words of the World War II poster, “careless talk costs lives”. Many have used the rhetoric of being willing to die for the right to free speech, but the issue becomes more problematic when it is soldiers who are dying in Afghanistan because of outrage at revelations of undiplomatic diplomatic cables. Once again, there is no coincidence that it is in times of war and unrest that the issue of free speech becomes particularly fraught. It is then that its negative ramifications can be most keenly felt, but it is also then that it is most under threat from the pressures of power and expediency, then that it most needs defending.

So what does all this have to do with the Roman poet Horace? Horace too was writing in a time of war and political upheaval. As he composed his Satires in the 30s BC, Rome had suffered almost a century of civil unrest exploding into outright civil war at regular intervals, and the final bout between Octavian (the future emperor Augustus) and Mark Antony was just around the corner. Horace himself had fought on “the wrong side” at the battle of Philippi in 42 BC, in the army of Julius Caesar’s assassins, Brutus and Cassius, against the ultimate victors, Octavian and Antony. Taken into the circle of Octavian’s ally and unofficial minister of culture, Maecenas, Horace had his status and his finances restored. It was at this point that Horace wrote book one of the Satires. These poems are full of profound human insights and uproarious, often filthy, humour, as can be experienced in John Davie’s lively new translation, but there is one large oddity about them. Horace chose to write satire, the genre of the 2nd century BC poet Lucilius, famed above all for his fearless freedom of speech, and he chose to write it in the period of probably the greatest military and political upheaval Rome ever underwent, but he “doesn’t mention the war”.

Not only does he not mention it, he goes out of his way not to mention it. Again and again there are opportunities to engage with the important political events in Rome and around her Mediterranean empire, but Horace repeatedly refuses. Satire 1.7 is all about Brutus’ time as governor of the provi

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3. Banned Books Week: Top 10 most challenged titles

The American Library Association (ALA) has issued their annual list of the 10 most frequently challenged books from US libraries.  There's a number of the usual suspects on the list, and while I'm still flabbergasted that there are people out there who are so concerned about the content in these books that they are requesting that they be removed from libraries (To Kill a Mockingbird? Really?) I do take some comfort in the fact that these books are still readily available for those who want them.

What I do want to know is how you can cite nudity as a reason for banning a book?  Unless these books have lift up flaps, and I am fairly certain they don't, an anatomy description shouldn't be grounds for a banning; especially when "offensive language" gets its own category.

To me the most offensive book in this list still got the top spot, just not for the reason I would have slotted it in.  Lauren Myracle's TTYL series is written entirely text message shorthand (Pls no, I h8 it), and for that alone I think it should be banned.

1. The TTYL series by Lauren Myracle for Nudity, sexually explicit, drugs, offensive language,and being unsuited to the age group.
2. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson for homosexuality.
3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky for homosexuality, sexually explicit content, anti-family, offensive language, religious viewpoints, being unsuited to age group, drugs, suicide.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for racism, offensive language, and being unsuited to age group.
5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer for sexually explicit scenes, religious viewpoints, and being unsuited to age group.
6. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger for sexually explicit scenes, offensive language, and being unsuited to age group
7. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult for sexism, homosexuality, being sexually explicit, having offensive language, religious viewpoints, drugs, suicide, violence, and being unsuited to age group.
8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler for being Sexually explicit, having offensive language,and being unsuited to age group.
9. The Color Purple by Alice Walker for being Sexually explicit, having offensive language,and being unsuited to age group.
10. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier for nudity, being Sexually explicit, having offensive language,and being unsuited to age group.

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4. The Legacy of Judith Krug

Art: Balimore City Paper


The Baltimore City Paper has published a tribute to Judith Krug.

You may not know this librarian's name but in the US, she fought for free speech and the freedom to read. According to the article by Anna Ditkoff, Krug's mother found her young daughter reading a book about sex with a flashlight one night. Her mother reacted by asking her to turn on the light so she didn't hurt her eyes.

Krug adopted her parents' philosophy with her own children.

In 1967, she became the founding director of the ALA's (American Library Association)Office for Intellectual Freedom and two years later helped create the Freedom to Read Foundation, a group that provides funding for legal aid in First Amendment cases. In 1982, Krug founded Banned Books Week to promote awareness.
In 1996, she battled an attempt to censor the internet in libraries, taking the legal fight all the way to the Supreme Court. In 2001, Krug and other librarians led a vocal fight against the Patriot Act which endangered the privacy of patrons' library records.

She lost her fight to stomach cancer this past April at the age of 69.

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5. China Denies Involvement in Attacks on Google

China has finally spoken out regarding the cyber attacks alleged to have originated in China, the BBC reported yesterday. China denies state involvement. An unnamed spokesperson from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in China stated, "The accusation that the Chinese government participated in [any] cyber attack, either in an explicit or inexplicit way, is groundless." He added, "China's policy on internet safety is transparent and consistent."

The US is being accused of hypocrisy since China believes "certain government agencies" illegally checked a massive number of personal e-mail accounts.


Cox and Forkum Political Cartoon

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6. Amy Goodman Detained at Canadian Border

Photo: Toronto Star

Amy Goodman, a US journalist who hosts "Democracy Now!" and New York Times best-selling author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier” was detained at a Vancouver border crossing last month. According to the CBC, border officials questioned her about what she would be speaking about in Vancouver and Victoria. The Globe and Mail reports that she was scheduled to speak at the public library.

Most disturbing is that border guards asked for her speaking notes. Since she does not use notes to speak, she offered her copy of the book from which should would be reading. The question border guards kept asking was whether she would be speaking about the upcoming Vancouver Olympics. When she returned to her car, guards had gone through their belongings and papers and two of three laptops.

The event as described by Amy Goodman was posted on Truthdig.


Amy concludes:

Our detention and interrogation were not only a violation of freedom of the press but also a violation of the public’s right to know. Because if journalists feel there are things they can’t report on, that they’ll be detained, that they’ll be arrested or interrogated; this is a threat to the free flow of information. And that’s the public’s loss, an Olympic loss for democracy.

While many people have experienced being pulled over at the US/Canada border, the issue is seldom what a person will speak about. This issue should be of great concern to Canadians who value freedom of speech.

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7. Amazon and Authors

VBT – Writers on the Move has a new feature to its marketing campaign – Viewpoint.

Today begins this new feature and Carolyn Howard-Johnson is launching the new segment at her site: www.sharingwithwriters.blogspot.com

The title of Carolyn’s article is:
Amazon, Reviews, Free Speech and More. C'mon, Let's Rant!

What’s happening is Amazon has decided to restrict the use of promotion on their site. Authors have always posted reviews of other authors' books on Amazon and included a link back to their own Amazon book page as part of their usual signature. Amazon, in their questionable wisdom, has disallowed this practice. When signing your review, you can only put your name – nothing else.

Does Amazon have a right to do this? Is this a fair practice?

I personally don’t understand Amazon’s motives for this attack on authors. If there are Amazon customers who feel Amazon shouldn’t be a promotional venue for authors they don't have to make use of the links given by authors.

If one were thinking clearly, it benefits everyone if authors/reviewers include links back to their own selling page:

1. The Amazon customer reading that review may feel confident that the reviewer, as an author, may know what he/she is talking about. This may encourage a purchase.

2. Amazon sells that book.

3. The author/reviewer may get someone to follow his link back to his selling page and make a sale.

4. Amazon sells that book.

It seems to be a win-win situation.

To read the original article by John Kremer and then Carolyn’s response go to Sharing with Writers right now. Let us know what you think about this!

Karen

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8. Cuba and Freedom to Read

There isn't much to report on concerning Cuba's Freedom to Read from my personal experience there. I did learn that there is a great emphasis on education and literacy. Whether or not that translates into freedom to read or free thinking is best left with Freadom, an organization which stands up for Cuban librarians and others who have been jailed for supporting the freedom to read.

A quick visit to a public library in Havana revealed books in worn condition.

The Cuban International Book Fair is a celebration of literacy and many families take the time to visit. It is definitely a "must do," if in Cuba in February.

Surprising to me was the literacy campaign, which Castro initiated in 1961. It is reported that "eleven months later, 707,212 people had learned to read and had written letters to President Castro to prove it and say thank you." For more information visit a Photo report: Literacy and computer literacy in Cuba.

As a postscript, may I recommend a couple of authors for the "Banned Book Challenge?" Although Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in Columbia, he began to align himself with the Cuban revolution which reflected his Utopian politics. He spent time in Cuba and eventually became a person friend of Fidel Castro.


Ernest Hemmingway
lived out his last days in Cuba. Visitors to Cuba will find a museum dedicated to his life and work and numerous drinking establishments that claim that Hemmingway drank there. Take a tour of Old Havana on Hemmingway's trail. He has been honoured by the people of Cuba who regard him as one of their own. Ironically, according to Study World's entry on Ernest Hemmingway, his father was a strict man who censored what his children could read.

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9. PEN Mightier Than the Sword in China?

According to the Agence France-Presse, a global news agency, Chinese police have tried to disrupt an awards ceremony organized by PEN, an International Agency that advocates freedom of expression. Two writers have been detained by police as the Chinese government moves to keep control of dissent as the 2008 Beijing Olympics approach. According to a press release from PEN Canada, there are now 41 Chinese writers who have been wrongly imprisoned.

Li Jianhong, who was due to receive an award at the ceremony, is under house arrest. Liao Yiwu, who was to receive the Freedom to Write Award, was detained and was scheduled to be returned to his home. Many of the 40 people who had been invited to the ceremony received warnings from police not to attend.

Visit PEN Canada's Web Site for more information on PEN's campaign and other censorship issues.

In an unrelated story, the Washington Post highlights the story of Chen Yuhua, a Chinese resident who is suing the Beijing Municiple government over the removal of his Internet post about dogs. He has been careful to follow procedure exactly. His is a bold challenge to the atmosphere of the control of information. His post was an attack on regulations barring any dog over 14 inches high and restricting each family to only one dog. This is only the second time someone has gone to court to sue over censorship.

It is believed that more than 30,000 censors monitor the Internet using technology to block sensitive sites. A list of keywords used to filter Internet content in China was obtained by the Washington Post back in 2005. Of the 236 words, 18 are obscenities. The rest are related to politics or current affairs.

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10. Blogging Anonymously

Global Voices Online offers technical instruction on how to blog anonymously. Please read their disclaimer before trying this for yourself, especially if you live in a country that frowns on free speech. It is not foolproof but offers a layer of protection.

Global Voices Advocacy


An article on How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else) is offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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11. Muzzle Award

The 2007 Jefferson Muzzle Award was presented to a number of people and organizations in the US, including the Miami-Dade School Board for its banning of a children's book entitled "A Visit to Cuba" after a parent complained it showed the communist state in too positive a light.

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has awarded over one hundred and sixty Jefferson Muzzles in the past sixteen years. According to their web site:

Announced on or near April 13 — the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson — the Jefferson Muzzles are awarded as a means to draw national attention to abridgments of free speech and press and, at the same time, foster an appreciation for those tenets of the First Amendment.

Here is the full 2007 Muzzle Award List:
1. REP. PETER KING, R-N.Y., for advocating a criminal investigation of The New York Times after it reported on government surveillance of international financial transactions.

2. THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, for broadening the scope of broadcast material that constitutes indecency and targeting profanity.

3. THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, for its surveillance of anti-war organizations.

4. THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION, for changing and censoring reports and studies of government scientists.

5. THE OHIO GENERAL ASSEMBLY, for passing a bill requiring state employees to sign a form declaring one has no ties to terrorist groups and gives no financial or material assistance to groups on the State Department's terrorist list.

6. KENTUCKY REPUBLICAN GOV. ERNIE FLETCHER, for blocking access to liberal-leaning Web sites from state-owned computers, while still permitting access to conservative sites.

7. MAINE'S BUREAU OF LIQUOR ENFORCEMENT, for banning the sale of three beers because of label illustrations.

8. THE EAST ST. LOUIS (ILL.) CITY COUNCIL, for forcing a public access show supportive of an incumbent mayor's political opponent off the air.

9. THE PHILADELPHIA HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION, for filing a discrimination complaint against a cheese steak shop owner after he posted a bumper sticker at his business that stated, "This is America: When ordering 'Speak English.' "

10. THE NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, for its policy on school mascots and team logos.

11. THE CHARLES A. BEARD MEMORIAL SCHOOL BOARD IN KNIGHTSTOWN, IND., for expelling four students who created a video that featured evil stuffed animals' unsuccessful attempt to kill a teacher.

12. WATSON CHAPEL SCHOOL DISTRICT IN ARKANSAS, for suspending about 20 students who protested the district's dress code by wearing black armbands.

13. MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL BOARD, for banning a children's book titled "A Visit to Cuba" after a parent complained it wasn't critical enough of the communist state.

14. TIE: BEN DAVIS HIGH SCHOOL IN INDIANAPOLIS, PRINCETON HIGH SCHOOL IN CINCINNATI AND WYOMING VALLEY WEST HIGH SCHOOL IN KINGSTON, PA., for censoring the content of high school publications.

Visit the archives for past years' Muzzle Award winners.

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12. Muzzle, Stiffle, and Subvert: From the Bizarre to the Absurd


The Signal: News for Santa Clarita Valley has an opinion editorial that deals with a number of censorship issues in the US. The article by Willy E. Gutman is entitled "Only in America: From the Bizarre to the Absurd."

The author points out a number of situations which in his opinion reflect,


White House-led efforts to muzzle the press, stifle artistic expression and subvert free thought while stepping up its own deceitful propaganda is being daily turned up a notch with a series of seemingly isolated but intimately linked initiatives that reflect the Bush administration's obsession with controlling information - and the minds of Americans.

Included in his examples is the challenge to Fahrenheit 451 during "Banned Books Week" but the whole article is worth a read.

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13. Do Americans Still Believe in the Principles of the U.S. Constitution?

ONE OF OUR [U.S.] GREAT WEAPONS CAN'T BE TAKEN LIGHTLY
By Mike Levine

Times Herald-Record
January 14, 2007

Wednesday, December 6, 1989 - In China, pro-democracy students are secretly quoting Jefferson. Lech Walesa said Poles look to Lincoln's writings for inspiration. The freedom movements in Czechoslovakia and East Germany are among the century's great stories.

Liberty is suddenly the worldwide rage.

But is freedom still an American passion? We fly the flag, all right, and in our last presidential election, the Pledge of Allegiance was a big issue. Yet surveys suggest that if the Bill of Rights were voted on today, Americans would turn it down. We're said to have grown intolerant and jaded.

To find out if the principles of freedom are as alive in the mid-Hudson as in East Berlin, I wrote up a ``limits of freedom'' opinion survey and passed it out to 24 seniors at Middletown High School. I also gave the survey to two dozen mid-Hudson adults.

You might want to take it yourself. Remember, this is not a ``right or wrong'' test, but an opinion survey.

1) Freedom of speech should NOT be permitted if it: - damages the credibility of the government.

Agree . . . Disagree

- promotes beliefs that go against religious teachings.

Agree . . . Disagree

- ridicules the president.

Agree . . . Disagree

- voices opposition to any portion of the U.S. Constitution.

Agree . . . Disagree

- defends the burning of the American flag.

Agree . . . Disagree

- only presents one side of an issue.

Agree . . . Disagree

- denies the existence of God.

Agree . . . Disagree

2) If a law enforcement officer suspects someone of a crime, he should be able to arrest that person until evidence is gathered.

Agree . . . Disagree

3) If a person has evidence that would incriminate him in a crime, he should be required to confess.

Agree . . . Disagree

4) Those demonstrating in the streets against official government policy should be arrested.

Agree . . . Disagree

5) If a majority of Americans believe a book is unfair to our nation's reputation, it should be banned.

Agree . . . Disagree

6) Because a majority of Americans are Christian, it should be the official religion of the United States.

Agree . . . Disagree

7) Police should be able to arrest people who they believe are likely to commit crimes.

Agree . . . Disagree

In this questionnaire, each ``agree'' answer was a vote to eliminate freedoms already guaranteed in the Constitution. A ``disagree'' answer was a vote to sustain our Constitutional freedoms.

For libertarians, the good news is that both the high school seniors and the adults voted to keep virtually every freedom (both groups had similar results).

The bad news is a little more than half the respondents rejected the 5th Amendment to the Constitution (Question #3). They said a person should be made to incriminate himself.

More than Over a third of the students said a book that unfairly portrays America should be banned. More than Over a quarter of the respondents said opinions should be stifled that deny the existence of God or that poke fun at the president.

Ironically, a third of the people also said speaking out against any portion of the Constitution should be banned.

There's no intent to lecture here. Patriotic Americans disagree as to the limits of freedom.

But when the Cold War was won, it turned out that America's great weapon wasn't guns or bombs.

It was freedom itself.

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