Thursday, January 15, 2015

Free speech includes the right to self-censorship

   In the freedom of speech debate dominating the aftermath of last week's terrorism bloodbath in Paris, it's useful to remember that the principle of free speech includes the right to censor one's self.  
   Calling media outlets who chose not  to run the cartoons at the root of the Charlie Hebdo massacre cowards is a red herring driven by an agenda.  Journalists have a professional responsibility to exercise editorial discretion.  No one in the free speech camp disputes Charlie Hebdo's right to print offensive material, but neither is there an obligation for other media to re-print the material, even if it's relevant to the story.  The images are easy enough to find on the internet, and the story can be reported in full without exacerbating tensions by gratuitously re-publishing something specifically intended to offend a large group of people.
   In a civilized society, free speech is not a license to be provocative, outrageous and insulting at will as much as it's protection against doing so without being killed for it.  Charlie Hebdo's cartoonists didn't deserve to die for drawing "blasphemous" caricatures of the Muslim prophet Mohammed, but to accuse other media of cowardice for not re-printing the material completely misses the point of free expression, and demonstrates a profound ignorance of journalistic standards and ethics.


  1. yes, one can choose not to display, but if you are going to write about it you should be prepared to show your evidence or direct a reader to a reprinted sight, so they can judge for themselves the relevancy.

  2. "...but if you are going to write about it you..." still can write what you fell necessary and not that trend dictates you to do at the moment.