We have on the radio currently leaders speaking out on the importance of freedom of speech and the danger of anything that stops it.

For example on Radio National this morning we are warned by a professor of Islam against the “moral bludgeon” of words like “Islamophobia” when they are used to label any discussion of issues critical of aspects of Islam.

President Obama gave a speech in the UN on the importance of freedom of speech even when it includes abusive stuff directed at him personally. He says he does not like being on the receiving end of it but absolutely defends the right of people to make these statements because the right is so important to freedom of speech and taking that right away leads to such a dark place (I’ll try to get a link to his speech which is inspiring).


After denouncing the film [i]Innocence of Muslims[/i] Obama went on to defend the US’s free speech rights:

” We do so not because we support hateful speech but because our Founders understood that without such protections the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics or oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives and the passion that religious differences can inflame the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

I know that not all countries in this body share this understanding of the protection of free speech. Yet in 2012 at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question then is how we respond. And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.”

(Both the above speeches were in the context of Islam but Islam in not the issue. Freedom of speech is the issue. The same speeches could be appropriately made on a completely different issue if freedom of speech was under threat.)

Right now we are seeing freedom of speech under great threat in Queensland. Freedom of speech is being rapidly removed here by a number of mechanisms:

[li]Critical statements about leadership or statements that could only by the most contorted view be taken as anything more than idle expression of frustration being referred to the Federal Police for investigation ?under terrorism laws???? (a Twitter case)[/li]
[li]Enforcing the Code of Conduct rule prohibiting all employees contractors volunteers and any employee or volunteer member of any organisation receiving any funding (such as a grant) from the QLD Government from speaking out about QLD Government actions or lack of them. People are speaking about not being able to get an internship as a trainee doctor or not having the right to speak out if you are a school P&C volunteer under these rules!!! We’ve heard this raised half a dozen times in the last fortnight!!! It is not allowed to be a community representative on a government-community consultative committee without signing away the right to speak in the community.[/li]
[li]Removing support for groups who ‘spin words and emotions’ such as writers. This is an ancient technique of repressive and tyrannical governments: hang the writers poets song-writers singers actors … because these are the people who tell the stories and inspire the people to rise up against injustice and tyranny. Chile was an example.[/li]