The Free Speech Debate has recently proposed ten draft principles, while leaving the 11th (and perhaps further) slot open for – surprise surprise – debate:
- We – all human beings – must be free and able to express ourselves, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, regardless of frontiers.
- We defend the internet and all other forms of communication against illegitimate encroachment of public and private powers.
- We require and create open, diverse media so we can make well informed decisions and participate fully in political life.
- We seek openly and with civility about all kinds of human difference.
- We allow no taboos in the discussion and dissemination of knowledge.
- We neither make threats of violence nor accept violent intimidation.
- We respect the believer but not necessarily the content of the belief.
- We are all entitled to a private life but should accept such scrutiny as in the public interest.
- We should be able to counter slurs on our reputations without stifling legitimate debate.
- We must be free to challenge all limits of freedom of expression and information justified on such grounds as national security, public order, morality, and the protection of intellectual property.
- What is missing? What would you propose? Join the global conversation…
The list and corresponding discussion reminded me of something I posted on this blog a while ago: Blasphemy, Free Speech, and Dangerous Things.
In this post, I argued that due to the nature of discourse, not all “speeches” are equal in the manner that some are more powerful than others. Keeping this in mind, the argument continues, free speech should be treated as part of a bigger whole; society should understand the power that speech hold; and this great freedom/right/privilege/power is productive only when set in a suitable framework (through education, information and media literacy, etc.), which (for example) protects the less-powerful and less-privileged or educates also about the power and dangers that accompany free speech.
In light of this argumentation, this is the proposal I made for principle no. 11:
We acknowledge that free speech is a mean to an end and not an end in itself.
Furthermore, we emphasize that free speech is a right that withholds considerable power. Therefore it should be treated as part of a whole, combined with information and media literacy, access to education, etc.
Do you have other suggestions? Here’s where you can express them!