The right to free speech

In 2012 a furore erupted across South Africa following the public exhibition of a painting by a ‘white’ South African artist, Brett Murray. Expressing a strand of public perception relating to the numerous scandals surrounding Jacob Zuma, the current President of South Africa, it depicts the President in a Lenin-like fashion with his genitals exposed. As well as the painting being vandalised shortly after it was displayed, some even called for the artist to be stoned to death for the way he had insulted the President.  A fascinating debate followed raising the question of why something one might have thought as an acceptable form of political commentary within the context of a democracy could provoke such an impassioned response. Continue reading

Is “Freedom of Speech” the Achilles heel of the Secular Liberal Society?

These thoughts are provoked by the recent trial of Anjem Choudary and the controversy it  has sparked. In the recent discussions of the issue in the media on various radio and television programmes, two opposing views emerged. On one view, Choudary, and many like him, hold views which are not only morally repugnant but socially and nationally dangerous (Choudary is held responsible for inciting many young British Muslims to join ISIS in Syria). An opposing view argues that “freedom of speech” or “freedom of expression” (terms are used interchangeably) is an inalienable right of every British citizen and an essential characteristic of a civilized democratic society and can only be abrogated in very exceptional circumstances, e. g. during the time of a major war or during major internal unrest which threatens the very fabric of the country. Continue reading