Freedom of Expression has Obligations/Mohamed Omer -Toronto, Ontario
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Jul 31, 2006 - 3:22:00 AM
The furor over recent Kodi's nude depicting Elmarghani is deeply troubling for many people of goodwill who passionately support freedom of expression, and has raised important questions about the limits that may be placed on freedom of expression.
The charter of International PEN — a leading human rights association of writers and other strong supporters of free speech — contains two clauses that are worth consideration in this situation. One calls upon PEN members to foster "good understanding and mutual respect among nations ... to do their utmost to dispel race, class and national hatreds, and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in the world." The other speaks to PEN's support for "unhampered transmission of thought" and for a free press; it goes on to say that "since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood and distortion of facts for political and personal ends."
Kodi's work is profoundly offensive, and these are notably inflammatory depictions. Reasonable persons may disagree on whether a line was crossed in the Kodi's work, and on whether voluntary restraint in this case would have represented capitulation or simple respect for others.
Political cartoons in the West, regularly employ broad caricatures and gross exaggeration. They offend individuals and groups with great frequency, and at the same time make important contributions to political discourse. The normal give-and-take of editors and cartoonists seeks to negotiate this terrain, and sometimes results in calling a halt to the publication of cartoons that are regarded as being in egregiously bad taste, gratuitously insulting, morally reprehensible, or in violation of limits established by law. On other occasions, considerations such as a belief in the merit of the cartoons in question or a desire to strike a blow for freedom of the press will carry the day.
Whatever the intentions of Kodi, it is clear that great damage has been done. Good people have been badly hurt.
Sudaneseonline members should strongly united in defence of both the right to freedom of expression and of the responsibilities associated with voluntary restraint in the interest of civil society.The situation urgently requires a space for debate on these critical issues in which all may express their views without fear of censorship, or even threat to suspend or fire from the board.
We often defends speech with which many of us strongly disagree. If we did not, the principle of free speech would be meaningless. Healthy debate should be the way of Sudaneseonline, within the bounds of decency and the law.I support the right of Kodi to publish his work, but also believes that a wise consideration of the principle of voluntary restraint would have led to better decisions. Finally, I urge all members as they enter into dialogue on this matter to support two great principles on which democracy depends: the right to free speech and respect for the dignity and beliefs of others. Both must be upheld.
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