Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Free Speech Update: Bangladesh, India and Iran

I'm not sure how regular a feature this will become, but I do want to pay attention to the issue of free speech globally as a measure of human rights being recognized. Where journalists, cartoonist, authors, are silenced, we have a government in fear that people will understand what they are about through that disallowed speech, who in effect, find secrecy their security. That's why I find governments that act to dampen free speech--and also those who don't support those that might be SLAPPED or silenced through more violent means, because it indicates a sympathy with silence.

First, I mean to offer my congratulation to the writers and their supporters who had a Freedom of Speech rally in Bangladesh. They are standing up against extremism in the face of very real attacks, and I wish them all well.

In India, 41 literary figures have returned their honors from the Indian government in the face of what they perceive as a growing militancy and intolerance, that has been marked with the murders of MM Kalburgi, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, and Govind Pansare. Intolerance against writers should be given no quarter--where violence against thinkers takes hold, who knows who will next face violence?

The Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, has spoken out against the crackdown in his country against speech crimes. He has said that many people who are practicing journalists have been picked up for nothing. (Except probably to intimidate and prevent honest stories from being written.)  If Hassan Rouhani has any pardon power at all, I would like him to reconsider the cases of Atena Farghadani and Jason Rezaian. Let them have their freedom.

I think freedom of speech is valuable, incalculable. I want nations around the world to know that making speech more protected can result in more transparent government, less ability of dictators to use the media to frame people, and a better understanding in the world around us.


mikey said...

Let me gently suggest that you're missing the worst examples. Most, if not all that you cite is just garden variety Theocracy in action. Theocracy is the true antithesis of democracy - theocracy brooks NO freedoms, and nothing like civil rights. When true believers are acting on the instructions of a deity, niceties like speech and journalism and trial by jury simply cannot exist.

So in these cases, the problem isn't freedom, the problem is government by scriptures, and justice by cleric. As long as this is the nature of a given nation's government, it makes no sense to talk about this or that 'freedom', because individual freedom cannot exist in that construct. See Saudi Arabia.

The worst form of the repression of speech and the targeting of journalists is that which takes place in the furtherance of an illegitimate, autocratic and authoritarian dictatorship. Sisi in Egypt, Erdogan in Turkey and to a lesser extent Khameni in Iran are controlling speech and shutting down dissent because they know that their political opposition has significant or even overwhelming legitimacy and popular support. It's pure political terror, and that's why the 'crimes' - 'Insulting the Leadership', 'publishing false information' - are so clearly ludicrous and impossible to deny. They WANT people to be afraid to speak out. They WANT people to know that even relatively innocuous speech is dangerous, and that anybody might be listening at any time...

Vixen Strangely said...

Quite. This edition was almost like tying together loose ends of stories I've been following and mean to continue following. The obnoxious nature of what al-Sisi is doing, and especially recently, at the same time as this suspicious airplane incident? Intimidating journos might make it look like his government is doing something, but the something he looks like he's doing is trying to hide his government's fuckups. I've got some material I'm digging into on Turkey.

It seems like governments that believe that authority is handed down from The Word are the ones most nervous about anyone else being able to use words. Something about this dynamic has always made me want to be a writer.

I thought I might do a Freedom of Speech roundup on a weekly basis, same as I do my climate roundups. But this might have to happen more frequently as situations emerge.