Press editor on free speech

A good column by Press Editor Joanna Norris on free speech:

But from time-to-time issues arise that quietly threaten the rights of New Zealanders to express themselves.

On such threat is a rising tide of offence-taking and indignation, particularly in social media where a discussion can move swiftly and viciously, influencing views and actions.

Smart young Australian philosopher Richard King, author of On Offence: The Politics of Indignation, says increasingly people are claiming it is their right not to be offended. People are not seeking freedom from offence but the freedom to ensure their view prevails, ie they are arguing their right not to be offended overrides the of others.

The echo-chamber of a platform such as Twitter, meanwhile, can silence dissenting views in the face of a vicious mob attack on those viewed to have erred from a ‘right-thinking’ view in the minds of the mob.

The, at times, sanctimonious Twittersphere can be quick to condemn and swift to move on.

But even this presents a conundrum, because members of the  mob are themselves exercising their rights to freedom of expression.

The solutions lie at the heart of the issue itself. Freedom of expression, which underpins media freedom, should be valued and protected. People need to know they are free to state their views, whilst also respecting the rights of others to express theirs, even when those views are not mainstream, or are offensive to a great many people.

Whether you are a fringe activist, member of the power elite or lonely bigot, you have the same right to express yourself. New Zealanders can do this in the knowledge that we are contributing to a marketplace of ideas that can be debated and discussed in a free media. And in doing so, we must all respect the rights of others to have a view different than our own.

Can’t agree more. I wish our Government would do what Tony Abbott did and appoint someone like Tim Wilson to the Human Rights Commission as a dedicated Free Speech Commissioner.

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