Editorial: It’s Important – Freedom of Speech

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F_R_OM_-ogoYou might even think the event in Paris of killing cartoonists and journalists has little to do with Otaki: that the concept of freedom of speech has little to do with our lives here in our own little paradise.

The Otaki Mail begs to differ. Although we have tried to remain unbiased, there is no doubt that some of our views are very clear. One view that we have not written about since we took over the reins of the Otaki Mail, is the sanctity of freedom of speech: of the right to hold a view and express it without fear. The Otaki Mail has in the past voiced an opinion: The Thin Line Between Freedom of Speech, Harassment and Abuse in April 2003.

We try to give voice to many people in our community and welcome opinion pieces from others. This time we think we have to stand up, clear and unequivocal that we uphold that right. We have a need as a civilised community to hear everyone’s view on any matter, provided some editorial controls exist eg defamation, abuse or harassment.

The events in Paris are troubling for the fear aroused when any view contrary to an extremist view is stated. The families which have been devastated by these events, the frisson of fear that creeps through communities when murder takes place must not inhibit the media, people or nations from the inalienable right to free speech, of speaking out against oppression in whatever form it takes.

Today’s openness in communication, where tolerance of other people’s views, expressions and words is an expected part of everyday life, is that legacy of wars fought by our forebears and what Anzac Day acknowledges.

With that hard-won freedom we must also acknowledge responsibility, fairness and compassion for other people’s beliefs.

Our fundamental right should not leave others alienated.