Freedom of Expression = Freedom to Insult?

EDITORIAL, 1 Oct 2012

#237 | Johan Galtung, 1 Oct 2012 - TRANSCEND Media Service

There are two key human rights values in this confrontation:

freedom of expression–basic, but not the only value in the world;

freedom from insult and respect for the sacred–basic, but not alone.

Conflicts between two values generally have five outcomes:

[1]        The freedom of expression prevails over freedom from insult-hurt-harm and respect for what is sacred to others: this happens right now; the US-made anti-Islamic YouTube video, and the Charlie Hebdo article.

Comment: Unacceptable; but does not justify violence to humans and property.  Nonviolent reactions against governments protecting individuals against libel, and Judaism-Christianity but not Islam, with forms of boycott till they change, and international conferences, are called for.  The problem is not what governments do, but what they have not done; not acts of commission, but their acts of omission.

[2]        The freedom from insult and respect for the sacred prevails, with silence whenever a religion is invoked, like by Islamic dictatorships.

Comment: Unacceptable; making it possible to hide the political under a cloak of the sacred as islamophobia, as being “anti-Islam”.

[3]        Neither expression, nor respect, but also non-verbal violence, like prejudice (attitudinal) and discrimination (behavioral).

Comment: Unacceptable; we need freedom of expression for that!

[4]        Compromise: moderate freedom of expression for moderate insults.

Comment: No solution to anything, but very frequently found.

[5]        Both freedom of expression and respect for the sacred.  But how?

Comment: By drawing a line between the secular-political and the sacred-religious (like between the public and the private person); with freedom of expression for the former, and respect for the latter.  Neither trampling on the sacred nor hiding the political from scrutiny, essential for the rule of law, human rights and democracy.  The video combines insult-hurt-harm with no hidden politics.  Unacceptable.

_____________________

Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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3 Responses to “Freedom of Expression = Freedom to Insult?”

  1. satoshi says:

    With or without being aware of it, people become God. They say, for instance, “On behalf of God, we will punish them.” They decide what is sacred or what is secular, according to their own measurement, not according to God’s measurement. (Nobody can know God’s own measurement.) They judge others according to their own measurement, not according to God’s measurement. These things are God’s tasks, not human beings’. But these people act as if they were God. Let me repeat: With or without being aware of it, people become God, therefore, they act as God.

    Studies of psychology teach that the more you enthusiastically obey a certain external authority, the more you enthusiastically compel other people to obey you (or your own authority under the name of the external authority that you are obeying). This is because “a person submits to someone/something” and “a person compels other people to submit to him or her” are the two sides of one psychology. This psychology is hidden behind recent disputes on freedom of speech, especially on religious issues.

  2. FREEDOM! Is this like you are allowed to order your own plain pizza and decide the toppings to your own liking? :>)

  3. Sulistyo Setiawan says:

    I want to say thank you so much to Prof. Johan Galtung has explained clearly what was peaceful even though I only read short articles on the Internet. I look forward to learning more about peace through the other articles that I can down load free of charge through this medium.

    Yours sincerely,
    Sulistyo S
    Semai (Seni untuk Damai/Art for Peace)
    Indonesia